Kurdish journalists
On April 23, 2024, Turkish authorities took nine people, who local media reported were all Kurdish journalists and media workers, into police custody. An Istanbul court detained reporters Esra Solin Dal and Mehmet Aslan, who work for the Mezopotamya News Agency (MA), as well as former MA reporter, Erdoğan Alayumat, pending trial. (Photo: MA)

Mass raid in Turkey jails 3 Kurdish reporters, others put under judicial control

Istanbul, April 29, 2024—Turkish authorities should release reporters Esra Solin Dal, Mehmet Aslan, and Erdoğan Alayumat and end the systematic harassment of Kurdish journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.

On April 23, Turkish authorities took nine people, who local media reported were all Kurdish journalists and media workers, into police custody after conducting house raids in Turkey’s largest city Istanbul, the capital Ankara, and the southeastern city of Şanlıurfa, according to news reports. Police questioned the journalists about their reporting and their news sources, according to news reports.

The detainees were denied access to their lawyers until the following day, according to a report by the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), a local press freedom group. Their lawyers were also not informed of the accusations against their clients due to a court order of secrecy on the investigation, according to the report. 

Istanbul prosecutors transferred Dal and Aslan, who work for the Mezopotamya News Agency (MA), as well as Alayumat, a former MA report, to a court, asking for their arrests.

In the early hours of April 27, an Istanbul court arrested Dal, Aslan, and Alayumat, pending trial on suspicion of terrorist activity.

Dal was strip searched as she was processed at the Bakırköy Women’s Prison in Istanbul and will file a criminal complaint via her lawyers, reports said.

The other six detainees were released under judicial control, including Doğan Kaynak, another former reporter for MA, and Enes Sezgin Özgür and Şirin Ermiş, who are both media workers for the daily Yeni Yaşam newspaper in Istanbul.

CPJ could not confirm the identities of Saliha Aras, Yeşim Alıcı, and Beste Argat Balcı, who were mentioned only as “journalist,” “a worker of the Free Press,” and “media worker,” respectively, in the reports.

Judicial control involves the obligation to report regularly to a police station and a ban on foreign travel.

“Turkish authorities continue to harass members of the media with mass raids and consistently fail to provide credible evidence to back up their accusations of terrorism against them. The only secret that the courts are hiding with their orders of secrecy surrounding their investigations is their lack of proof of any wrongdoing. Once more, Kurdish journalists are being forced to spend days in jail being questioned about their professional activities,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “Turkish authorities should immediately release Esra Solin Dal, Mehmet Aslan, and Erdoğan Alayumat, overturn the judicial control measures issued against other journalists and media workers who were swept up in the raid, and stop this harassment, which only tarnishes Turkey’s global reputation in terms of press freedom.”

Turkish police raided the houses of at least eight journalists in Izmir and Van in February and took them into custody. The practice is common in Turkey, according to CPJ research.

Alayumat used to be a reporter for the shuttered pro-Kurdish outlet Dihaber and was imprisoned for his journalism in 2017, as CPJ documented.

CPJ emailed the chief prosecutor’s office in Istanbul for comment about the arrests of Dal, Aslan, and Alayumat but did not receive a reply.