Öznur Değer, a freelancer who has published with the pro-Kurdish outlet JINNEWS, was one of 10 journalists detained for alleged terrorist links in various Turkish cities in October 2022. Değer was apprehended in the southeastern city of Mardin and imprisoned in Ankara’s Sincan prison. The reason for the mass arrest remains unclear, but lawyers representing the journalists told CPJ that all of them have denied any connection with a terrorist group.
JINNEWS is an all-female news outlet that supports the political and cultural rights of ethnic Kurds in Turkey. Turkish authorities associate it with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has clashed with Turkey over Kurdish independence and frequently harass its employees.
On October 25, police simultaneously raided several homes and one newsroom in the cities of Ankara, Diyarbakır, Istanbul, Mardin, Urfa, and Van as part of an investigation led by the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office, arresting 10 journalists perceived as pro-Kurdish. One, Zemo Ağgöz, was released the next day on house arrest to care for her newborn baby.
The remaining detainees were questioned on suspicion of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization,” and about their journalistic activities, though they have not been officially charged, according to news reports. Investigators asked Değer about her travel, social media posts, articles, and an award she accepted on behalf of another local news outlet, Jin TV. She was also questioned about her membership of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association, a legal press freedom group based in Diyarbakır, and social media posts commenting on Kurdish issues, according to documents provided to CPJ by her lawyer.
Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reported that police officers manhandled and threatened the journalists, handcuffing them for up to 15 hours during the transfer to Ankara and refusing to provide a medical assessment to confirm that some of them had been injured in custody. Some were kept in solitary confinement or given insufficient water, according to MA. Emrullah Acar, an MA reporter among the detainees, told colleagues from prison that Sincan does not provide reading materials in Kurdish, and denied inmates personal letters and healthcare.
CPJ emailed the Turkish Ministry of Justice in November 2022 for comment, but did not receive any reply.