Turkish riot police stand guard in Diyarbakir during a gathering of Turkish Kurds for Newroz, a celebration marking the first day of spring, in March 2022. (Photo: AFP/Ilyas Akengin)

Turkish police hold 3 journalists for 3 days on suspicion of ‘financing terrorism’

Istanbul, March 1, 2024—Police raided the homes of three Kurdish journalists and detained them for three days in a February incident that appears to be part of an ongoing trend of systemic harassment by Turkish authorities. Several journalists working for pro-Kurdish outlets have been arrested over the past 12 months including journalists Dicle Müftüoğlu and Sedat Yılmaz, who were charged separately with terrorism offenses, using their journalistic activities as evidence.

The Committee to Protect Journalists on Friday called on Turkish authorities to stop harassing the members of the Kurdish media with pointless arrests and trials and allow them to work freely.

“Turkish police took journalists Oktay Candemir, Arif Aslan, and Lokman Gezgin from their homes as if they were dangerous criminals and forced them to needlessly spend days being questioned about their professional work. This is not an isolated incident in Turkey,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “If Turkish authorities care to improve the country’s press freedom record, they must stop the systematic harassment of the critical Kurdish journalists with pointless judicial action that equates reporting to terrorism.”

The February incidents in Turkey include:

  • Police raided the homes of local freelance Kurdish journalists Candemir, Aslan, and Gezgin and detained them on Tuesday in the eastern city of Van. On Friday, a prosecutor in Van questioned the journalists about their financial dealings, including payments they received from European outlets for their work and payments made to journalists they employed. The three journalists were released pending investigation and are accused of financing terrorism.
  • A court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır on Thursday released pending trial imprisoned journalist Müftüoğlu, an editor for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency and co-chair of the local press freedom group Dicle Fırat Journalists Association. CPJ joined 18 local and international groups that same day in a joint letter calling for Turkish authorities to immediately release the journalist. She had been in custody for more than 300 days.
  • Police raided the homes of five reporters and detained them on February 13 in the western city of Izmir. Three of the reporters were put under house arrest, and the other two were released under judicial control on February 16. Appeals to these measures were rejected by an Izmir court on Thursday.

Another Diyarbakır court on Thursday acquitted Yılmaz, another editor for Mezopotamya, of terrorism charges. Yılmaz was released pending trial on December 14, 2023.

Candemir was detained and charged with “insulting” a deceased sultan in September 2020; the case was dropped in 2021.

CPJ emailed the chief prosecutor’s office in Van and Diyarbakır for comment but did not receive a reply.

Turkey recently dropped to 10th place as one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, but that decline does not signal an improvement, according to press freedom experts.