A man is detained by police officers as protesters demonstrate against the detention of 110 people over alleged militant ties in Diyarbakir, Turkey, on April 25, 2023. Authorities have formally arrested five journalists over such alleged ties. (Reuters/Sertac Kayar)

At least 4 journalists formally arrested, 1 more detained ahead of Turkey elections

Istanbul, April 28, 2023 — Turkish authorities should immediately release all journalists and media workers imprisoned for their work and stop interfering with the press ahead of the country’s May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On Tuesday, April 25, authorities in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır detained at least nine journalists for their alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization.

As of Friday, one of those journalists had been released, four had been formally arrested, and one more has been taken into custody, according to multiple media reports.

“Turkey’s ongoing crackdown on the Kurdish media over alleged terrorism ties clearly shows how authorities are determined to silence dissenting voices ahead of the country’s elections,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should release all journalists held in custody at once and stop abusing the country’s anti-terror laws to harass the press.”

Kadri Esen, publisher of the Kurdish-language newspaper Xwebûn, was released by a court under judicial control on Thursday, according to those news reports.

Of the previously detained journalists, on Thursday authorities formally arrested Mezopotamya News Agency editor Abdurrahman Gök and reporter Mehmet Şah Oruç; and JINNEWS reporter Bertitan Canözer. On Friday, authorities also formally arrested Mikail Barut, a journalist whose employer CPJ could not immediately determine, news reports said.

The proceedings in the cases of the other four journalists detained Tuesday, as well as media lawyer Resul Temur, were ongoing at the time of publication, those media reports said.

Separately, on Thursday police in the southeastern city of Adıyaman detained Kadir Bayram, a camera operator for Diyarbakır-based PIYA production company, and planned to bring him to Diyarbakır, reports said.

As CPJ has documented, authorities have recently detained Kurdish journalists in Diyarbakır and Ankara, and charged them months later with PKK membership on flimsy evidence. If charged and convicted of membership in a terrorist organization, the journalists could face up to 15 years in prison under Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws.

Prior to the latest detentions, Turkey was already one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists, with 40 behind bars as of CPJ’s December 1, 2022, prison census.

CPJ emailed the chief prosecutor’s office of Diyarbakır for comment but did not receive any reply.

[Editors’ note: This article has been changed in its headline and its text to remove mentions of one person who detained but was found after publication not to be a journalist.]