2 journalists under investigation due to critical reporting on Turkish gov’t officials

Birgün reporter İsmail Arı (R) and editor Kayhan Ayhan

Turkish prosecutors have launched investigations into two journalists from the Birgün daily due to their critical reporting on a former minister, a lawmaker from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the gendarmerie, Turkish Minute reported.

The investigation into Birgün editor Kayhan Ayhan stems from his reporting of allegations of ill-treatment of villagers by the gendarmerie in western Bursa province. The news report, titled “2.5 hours of violence against villagers,” published in Birgün on December 2, detailed claims by residents of a village in İznik who alleged that they were subjected to violence and harassment by the gendarmerie. The report, based on villagers’ statements, also said main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Orhan Sarıbal addressed the issue in the parliament.

In his testimony to prosecutors, Ayhan said preventing arbitrary actions and unlawful acts by law enforcement is essential for a democratic society. He added that there was a public interest in publishing the news he reported.

A total of five investigations were launched into Birgün reporter İsmail Arı following complaints filed by Levent Uysal, an MP from the far-right MHP, an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and former justice minister Abdulhamit Gül.

Arı reported on allegations that Uysal acquired Serbian citizenship illegally in 2020 and attempted to secure a €45 million loan from Switzerland with forged documents. He also reported that in October 2023, a 21-year operating license for a valuable piece of land in Istanbul was awarded through a tender to a foundation established by Uysal.

Arı also covered allegations that Ayşenur Atmaca, the sister of former minister Gül, and her husband Muharrem Atmaca defrauded nearly 400 individuals in 2019 and 2020 through their construction company. The company received significant sums of money from these individuals, promising to deliver houses but ultimately disappeared without fulfilling their commitments.

Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since President Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey is ranked 165th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

Take a second to support Stockholm Center for Freedom on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!