The damaged phones and cameras of three Greek journalists are seen after being confiscated by Turkish authorities. (Photo: Media and Law Studies Association)

Turkish authorities harass Greek journalists covering earthquake, smash cameras and phones

Istanbul, March 21, 2023 – Turkish authorities should conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the recent official harassment of a Greek reporting crew and ensure that members of the press can work freely and safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On February 16, members of the Presidency of Religious Affairs, a Turkish government body that oversees religious issues, confiscated and damaged equipment from three Greek freelance journalists while they were in the eastern city of Antakya covering the aftermath of an earthquake that struck the area earlier that month, according to a report published March 20 by the Media and Law Studies Association nongovernmental organization, MLSA co-chair Veysel Ok, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app, and one of those journalists.

“Turkish authorities must conduct a swift and through investigation regarding the complaints of Greek journalists Kyriakos Finas, Victoras Antonopoulos, and Konstantinos Zilos who had their equipment confiscated and smashed as they were documenting the recent earthquake in eastern Turkey,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “These journalists should be compensated for their equipment and their lost footage, and authorities should ensure that such incidents are not repeated.”

Journalists Kyriakos Finas, Victoras Antonopoulos, and Konstantinos Zilos were covering a mass funeral after the earthquake when members of the Presidency of Religious Affairs, accompanied by military police, ordered them to stop recording the procession, according to Ok and Finas, who spoke to CPJ by phone.

Finas and Antonopoulos heard that order and stopped filming, but Zilos was further from the scene and continued working. Police then took all three journalists to a building owned by the religious affairs office where they confiscated their cameras and phones, Finas and Ok said.

Authorities returned their equipment the following day, but all of it was smashed and broken. Finas told CPJ that they lost all the footage they took in Turkey, and that the loss of their phones and cameras were a significant financial hardship for each journalist.

After the journalists returned to Greece, the Turkish Embassy in Athens contacted them and offered to give them equipment from Turkey’s state-run Anadolu News Agency, Finas said. He told CPJ that they accepted that offer but had not received any new gear by Monday, March 21.

Ok, who is also a lawyer representing the journalists, told CPJ that he plans to file suit this week seeking damages over the incident.

CPJ emailed the Turkish Interior Ministry, the Presidency of Religious Affairs, and the Turkish Embassy in Athens for comment but did not receive any replies.

[Editors’ note: This article has been changed in its seventh paragraph to accurately reflect the offer made to the journalists by the Turkish Embassy.]