Istanbul, May 12, 2023 – Turkish authorities in the western province of Çanakkale must investigate the recent assault of journalist Muhammed Yavaş and ensure his attacker is held to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
On Wednesday, May 10, Yavaş, a writer and publisher of the weekly newspaper Çan’dan Haberler, published a post on the outlet’s Facebook page criticizing political banners by the pro-government Grey Wolves nationalist group in the Çanakkale city of Çan. Those banners suggested voting for opposition candidates in Sunday’s elections would be equal to voting for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey classifies as a terrorist group.
Later that day, the Çan head of the Grey Wolves, Hasan Dinç, invited Yavaş to meet for tea at a local café and then punched and kicked him, knocked him to the ground, and threatened to kill him, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke to CPJ. Yavaş said he went to a hospital after the incident but was not seriously injured, and later filed a criminal complaint.
Contacted by messaging app, Dinç claimed that a “brawl” broke out between him and Yavaş because the journalist provoked it. Yavaş told CPJ that he did not fight back during the altercation.
“Authorities in Çanakkale, Turkey, should swiftly and thoroughly investigate the criminal complaint filed by journalist Muhammed Yavaş, who was physically assaulted in public because of his reporting,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “Yavaş’ safety should be guaranteed, and authorities should ensure that attacks on the press will carry swift consequences.”
In a video statement on Thursday, Oğuzer Akgün, the Çanakkale provincial head of the Grey Wolves, was seen sitting with Dinç. In the video, Akgün accused Yavaş of inciting the incident, saying the “situation turned into a brawl” over the journalist’s alleged provocations.
Akgün also accused Yavaş of being paid to make that Facebook post, which Yavaş denied. Akgün said the journalist was “spending an extraordinary effort to stir up trouble” prior to that May 10 meeting with Dinç.
Çan’dan Haberler (News from Çan) has about 10,000 followers on Facebook and frequently posts news about local political issues.
CPJ emailed the chief prosecutor’s office in Çanakkale for comment but did not receive any reply.