İdris Sayılgan

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Police in Turkey’s eastern province of Muş detained İdris Sayılgan, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), on October 17, 2016, according to press reports. On October 25, 2016, a court in Muş jailed him pending trial on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization, according to press reports.

Prosecutors questioned the journalist about his professional activities, according to records of the interrogation reviewed by CPJ. They asked Sayılgan about recorded phone conversations between the journalist and people he said were journalistic contacts. They asked the reporter about several stories he had published, including on the firing of a local union leader, on the deaths and funerals of members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)–which Turkey classes as a terrorist organization–and on preparations for Labor Day in eastern Turkey, for the pro-PKK television station Med Nûçe TV. Interrogators also asked Sayılgan about his reporting on the arrest of a Kurdish politician’s daughter on suspicion of membership in the PKK, and his requests to interview a PKK leader, the documents show.

Prosecutors asked the journalist about a recorded phone call he had made related to the production of a DİHA documentary about a slain PKK fighter, a post the journalist published on Facebook about the documentary, whether DİHA had an editorial policy of covering the deaths of PKK militants, and how rigorous the news agency’s editorial process was. Sayılgan denied producing propaganda for the PKK, the record of his interrogation shows.

Sayılgan told his interrogators that he had written thousands of news stories, and that prosecutors were focusing on a few of his published stories to make him appear guilty, the records show.

Turkish authorities persistently targeted DİHA journalists with arrest and prosecution, has found, before the government used emergency powers it assumed after a failed July 2016 military coup to order the news agency closed by decree on October 29, 2016.

An indictment presented to the court on July 11, 2017 focused on Sayılgan’s reporting as alleged evidence of his PKK membership.

Sayılgan appeared in court for the first time on September 12, 2017, nearly a year after his arrest, according to news reports. The court denied the journalist’s plea to be released pending trial.

Sayılgan was in Trabzon Prison at the northern province of the same name, and on trial at the Muş Court of Serious Crimes.

Sayılgan was unable to attend a May 23, 2018 court hearing via teleconference due to a technical malfunction, according to the news website Gazete Karınca. The Muş court ordered that the journalist be jailed pending the duration of his trial and set the next hearing for October 5.

At that hearing, the court again did not release the journalist and set the next hearing date for December 24, 2018, according to reports. Sayılgan was able to attend the October hearing via teleconference. He reminded the court he has been under arrest for two years and said, “This arrest is neither moral nor conscionable. It has nothing to do with the law. I am an opposition journalist. This case means to silence opposition journalists.”