Political supporters celebrate outside the city hall in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 31, 2024. On election day, the High Board of Elections banned reporters from observing the votes being counted at some locations. (Photo: AP/Khalil Hamra)

Turkish journalists shot at, banned from observing vote count in local elections

Istanbul, April 2, 2024—Turkish authorities must not disregard the news media’s legally protected right to observe the election process and must investigate the armed attack on a group of journalists in Diyarbakır, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On Sunday’s election day, the High Board of Elections (YSK) banned reporters from observing the votes being counted at some locations.

This is a legal right for Turkish journalists, according to a report by local media freedom advocacy group MLSA. The group cited Article 82 of Turkey’s election law, which says, “…Members of the media are free to obtain images and information around the ballot box for news purposes, provided that they do not interfere with the ballot box procedures.”

That same day, an unknown number of journalists from the official Anatolia Agency (AA), the pro-government Demirören News Agency, and pro-government İhlas News Agency were shot at while trying to get away from a location where they were covering an ongoing clash over an election dispute in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. The AA reporters’ vehicle was hit by bullets, but nobody was injured.

“While it was a welcome change that elections in Turkey were held without attacks on the media by the security forces, the ban on reporters observing the vote count and the armed assault on journalists in Diyarbakır demand further investigation,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “Turkish authorities must prosecute those responsible for the Diyarbakır shooting and ensure that the legal rights of the media, which benefit the whole society and democracy, are always protected.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered a major electoral defeat during the local elections. The party lost many municipalities and failed to retake major metropolises from the opposition despite its victory in the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2023.

During the second round of presidential elections on May 28, 2023, at least two journalists were physically attacked, others were obstructed from their work, and one was briefly detained by the police.

CPJ’s calls to the YSK and chief prosecutor’s office in Diyarbakır for comment did not immediately receive a reply.