Zeynel Abidin Bulut

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Zeynel Abidin Bulut, an editor for the Kurdish-language weekly newspaper Xwebün, 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.

Bulut previously worked as a reporter for pro-Kurdish outlets Dicle News Agency (DİHA) and Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat before they were shuttered by a government decree in 2016. He is currently an editor at Xwebün and also hosts a show about Kurdish history on the outlet’s YouTube channel. The weekly newspaper started publication in December 2019 and focuses on the Kurdish language, politics, culture, and history. Bulut is also the bookkeeper for the local press freedom group Dicle Fırat Journalists Association. 

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.

The police raided Bulut’s house and confiscated two wall clocks, which were handmade items made by inmates in prison, books, and “all his journalism related material” as evidence, his wife, Gülistan Bulut, told local news outlet Gazete Duvar; they also raided his parents’ house in the city of Mardin.

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 charged due to a court order of secrecy, but said 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 CPJ’s interviews with local journalists.

Diyarbakır courts denied the journalists’ appeals of their arrests and their pretrial detention on August 22 and September 8.

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 indicted.

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 prison administration withheld three letters written by imprisoned journalists Bulut, Serdar Altan, and Mehmet Ali Ertaş on the basis that the letters may contain terrorism propaganda or terrorism-related communications, local news outlet Gazete Karınca reported in mid-June. The journalists were in good health and were allowed lawyer and family visits, but had 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.