A Mezopotamya News Agency report on five journalists accused by Turkish authorities of being members of a terrorist organization. (Screenshot: Mezopotamya News Agency)

Turkey puts 5 journalists under house arrest or judicial control 

Istanbul, February 16, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists urges Turkish authorities to cancel the house arrests under electronic tagging and judicial controls placed on five journalists and to stop equating journalism with terrorism. 

On Tuesday, police raided the homes of five reporters and took them into custody in the western city of Izmir, according to news reports.

On Friday, an Izmir court alleged that the journalists were members of a terrorist organization and ordered that Delal Akyüz and Tolga Güney of the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, and Melike Aydın of the pro-Kurdish news website JİNNEWS be released under house arrest, with electronic tagging to ensure they do not leave their homes, media reports said.

In addition, Mezopotamya News Agency’s Semra Turan and Cihan Başakçıoğlu of the news website Gazete Duvar were placed under judicial control, those sources said. This involves the obligation to report to a police station twice a week and a ban on foreign travel.

When the police brought the detainees to the courthouse, they were handcuffed from behind, which is against normal procedures in Turkey for nonviolent criminals. The handcuffs were moved to the front after their lawyers protested.

“Once more, journalists in Turkey were picked up from their homes by the police before work hours in the morning, handcuffed from behind like violent criminals, and kept in custody for days, with no clue as to what accusations they are facing. This obvious pattern of media harassment has to end,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “Turkish authorities should immediately cancel the judicial measures which deny the journalists’ freedom of movement and recognize the clear difference between journalism and terrorism. They must stop equating the two.”

On Thursday, anti-terrorism police questioned the detainees about their work, including why they reported on certain topics, their social media activity, and travels, news reports said.

None of the journalists were told why they were detained, nor they were allowed to see their lawyers for the first 24 hours in detention, those sources said.

At the time of publication, neither the journalists nor their lawyers had been informed about the details of the investigation.

Many journalists working for pro-Kurdish outlets have been systematically harassed by the Turkish authorities for years, CPJ research found

CPJ emailed the Izmir chief prosecutor’s office and the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, for comment but did not receive a reply.