Istanbul, March 23, 2023—Turkish authorities should immediately release Hamdullah Bayram and all journalists, media workers, and others detained in retaliation for outlets’ reporting on Kurdish politics and rights issues, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
In February, authorities indicted 10 Kurdish journalists and accused them of membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
On March 16, authorities in the southern city of Mersin detained Bayram, who works in distribution for the pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Yeni Yaşam, as part of the investigation into those journalists, according to multiple news reports and court documents reviewed by CPJ.
On March 21, the First Court of Penal Peace in Ankara, the capital, formally arrested Bayram and also accused him of being a member of the PKK, according to those sources. He is being held in Ankara’s Sincan Prison.
“Turkish authorities should immediately release Yeni Yaşam employee Hamdullah Bayram and all journalists who are being held behind bars on trumped-up terrorism allegations,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York. “Authorities must stop retaliating against journalists and other media outlet employees over outlets’ coverage.”
Authorities questioned Bayram about times he retweeted his employer on Twitter as well as books, magazines, and other printed material confiscated from houses in Mersin and in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, according to those court documents, which said that Bayram denied the accusations and did not have a home in Mersin.
Authorities also alleged that Bayram had incriminating material on his cell phone, which he blamed on the fact that he bought the phone second-hand and it still contained data from its previous owner, those documents said. He said he was unfamiliar with people whom authorities accused him of contacting via WhatsApp, and said he did not use that program.
CPJ emailed the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office for comment but did not immediately receive any response.