Protesters demonstrate against the detention of more than 100 people over alleged militant ties in Diyarbakir, Turkey, on April 25, 2023. At least 10 journalists were among those detained. (Reuters/Sertac Kayar)

Turkish police detain at least 9 journalists in Diyarbakır crackdown

Istanbul, April 25, 2023—Turkish authorities should release all recently detained journalists held in retaliation for their work and ensure that the country’s anti-terror laws are not weaponized against the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

In the early hours of Tuesday, April 25, authorities in 21 cities throughout the southeastern province of Diyarbakır detained more than 100 people accused of having ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization, according to multiple media reports.

At least nine Kurdish journalists were included in the crackdown, which also targeted politicians, lawyers, artists, and others.

Authorities also detained Resul Temur, a Diyarbakır-based media freedom lawyer who represents more than half of the 40 journalists behind bars in Turkey who were included in CPJ’s December 1, 2022, prison census, according to news reports and the Media and Law Studies Association, a local rights group.

“Turkish authorities are yet again showing that they will use the country’s terrorism laws as a cudgel against the press,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York. “Authorities should immediately and unconditionally release the journalists recently swept up in a crackdown in Diyarbakır along with lawyer Resul Temur, and drop all efforts to suppress coverage of Kurdish issues.”

Authorities arrested at least three journalists with the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, according to that outlet and other news reports, which identified them as editor Abdurrahman Gök and reporters Ahmet Kanbal and Mehmet Şah Oruç. Authorities are seeking to detain Mezopotamya publisher Ferhat Çelik after he was not found at his home, the news agency said.

Those reports also said that authorities had detained Osman Akın, news editor for the pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Yeni Yaşam; Beritan Canözer, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish all-women news website JINNEWS; Kadri Esen, publisher of the Kurdish-language newspaper Xwebûn; and four journalists whose outlets CPJ could not immediately confirm: Mehmet Yalçın, Mikail Barut, and Salih Keleş.

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.

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 seventh paragraph to include Mehmet Yalçın’s name instead of the name of another detainee, who is not a journalist. It has also been edited in its text and headline to reflect that nine journalists were arrested, and removed the name of one other person who was later identified not to be a journalist.]