Safiye Alagaş, an editor for the pro-Kurdish news website JINNEWS, was among 15 Kurdish journalists and a media worker who were taken into police custody in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakır in June 2022 and were jailed without charge pending trial as of late 2022.
Alagaş is the managing news editor of the all-female outlet JINNEWS, which focuses on women’s rights, Kurdish issues, and politics. JINNEWS and its staff have faced arrests, detentions, and legal cases in retaliation for their reporting from Turkish authorities several times in the past.
Diyarbakır police raided several locations in the city, including journalists’ houses and newsrooms, in the early hours of June 8, 2022, and took into custody 20 journalists and media workers, along with a citizen who was once interviewed by one of the journalists. On June 15, 15 of those journalists and one media worker were jailed by a court pending trial, including Alagaş.
Alagaş said in an interview from the Women’s Closed Prison in Diyarbakır, published by the leftist daily Evrensel on July 1, that police came to her house around 5:00 a.m., searched the house for an hour, and confiscated phones and computers. The journalist said that at the same time, police raided the Diyarbakır offices of JINNEWS without the presence of their lawyers, and that she still did not know what they took from the offices. Alagaş told Evrensel that the authorities questioned her about 50 stories published by JINNEWS.
Resul Tamur, a lawyer who represents the 15 journalists and the media worker, told independent news website Bianet that the journalists will not learn about the accusations against them until they are formally charged due to a court order of secrecy on the investigation, but they were all questioned about their journalistic activities.
Tamur told Bianet that his clients were questioned about the angle they took on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant group and political party that Turkey classifies as a terrorist group, and whether the content the journalists created for broadcast by European outlets was considered pro-PKK. Most of the journalists either work for pro-Kurdish media outlets or independent production companies that provide content for other outlets, according to news reports and local journalists who spoke with CPJ.
Tamur told CPJ in an in-person interview in early November that his clients were being held at Diyarbakır Prison and remained under arrest but had not been formally indicted.
Diyarbakır courts denied the journalists’ appeals of their arrests and their pretrial detention on August 22 and September 8.
In prison, the journalists were not allowed to receive critical newspapers such as Yeni Yaşam, BirGün, and Evrensel, and only had access to radio with a limited number of stations. The journalists were in good health and were allowed lawyer and family visits, but complained about a lack of access to socialization and sports activities, according to reports.
CPJ emailed the Turkish Ministry of Justice in October 2022 for comment but did not receive any reply.