Journalists covering the Kurdish Newroz celebration in Istanbul were harassed by police on March 17, 2024. (Photo: Reuters/Umit Bektas)

Istanbul police harass reporters at Kurdish Newroz celebration

Istanbul, March 19, 2024 – The Committee to Protect Journalists urges Turkish authorities to investigate reports of police harassment of three reporters during Kurdish spring Newroz celebrations in Istanbul on Sunday.

On Sunday, March 17, Police officers in Istanbul harassed at least three reporters in two separate incidents while they were covering a mass arrest during Newroz celebrations calling for Kurdish rights in Yenikapı Square. Officers took Agence France-Presse reporter Eylül Deniz Yaşar into custody and detained Tuğçe Yılmaz and Ali Dinç, reporters with independent news website Bianet. Yılmaz and Dinç were ordered to lay on the ground, handcuffed, and allegedly beaten.

“Reporters Tuğçe Yılmaz, Ali Dinç, and Eylül Deniz Yaşar were simply doing their jobs by reporting on a Newroz celebration, an event of public interest, when police harassed them,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “Turkish authorities must investigate this harassment and make sure reporters in the field face no obstacles to their work.”

All three reporters will file criminal complaints with the police, according to the reports above and Yılmaz and Yaşar, who spoke to CPJ separately via messaging app.

Police officers tried to prevent other reporters from capturing video as Yılmaz and Dinç were forced to lay on the ground and surrounded by several officers. The two journalists were documenting celebration attendees being taken into custody by the police.

Separately, police did not allow Yaşar to pass a security checkpoint with her camera despite her presenting her press card. They then took her into custody for approximately six hours during which she was threatened and insulted, according to news reports.

CPJ emailed the Turkish Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.