Parliamentary deputies and rights defenders speak to media in front of a Diyarbakır courthouse on July 11, 2023. The day marked the opening of the trial of 17 Kurdish journalists and a media worker on terrorism charges. (CPJ/Ozgur Ogret)

Terrorism trial of 17 Kurdish journalists, media worker begins in Turkey 

Diyarbakır, July 11, 2023—In response to Tuesday’s opening of the trial of 17 Kurdish journalists and a media worker on terrorism charges in a court in Diyarbakır, Turkey, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“Turkish authorities must immediately release the defendants and drop the terrorism charges, which are solely based on their journalistic work,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “Turkish authorities should also take necessary steps to ensure that pretrial arrest cannot be weaponized against the members of the press.”

The journalists and media worker were charged with membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). They are employed by local ARİ, PEL, and PİYA production companies and produce Kurdish-focused shows and content, which the indictment alleged were propaganda for PKK. The government has designated PKK as a terrorist organization. 

The defendants — 15 of whom have been under pretrial arrest for 13 months — have denied the charges and, if convicted, face up to 15 years imprisonment under Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws. 

Turkey was the world’s fourth-worst jailer of journalists, with 40 behind bars at the time of CPJ’s December 1, 2022, prison census. Of those, more than half were Kurdish journalists.

CPJ’s email to the Diyarbakır chief prosecutor’s office did not receive a response.

Editor’s note: On Thursday, July 12, Duvar English reported that the court decided to release 15 of the imprisoned defendants pending trial. CPJ welcomed the releases, but said they should never have been imprisoned in the first place.