Court arrests 16 Kurdish journalists after 8 days in custody in SE Turkey

Sixteen journalists out of 22 people – the vast majority of them members of the press – who were detained in southeastern Diyarbakır province on June 8 and had been held in custody for eight days were arrested by a court early Thursday, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).

Serdar Altan, co-chair of the Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association (DFG), Mezopotamya news agency (MA) Editor-in-Chief Aziz Oruç and JinNews News Director Safiye Alagaş were among those arrested on Thursday, according to MLSA, a non-profit organization working in the fields of free speech, journalism, Internet freedoms and the right to information.

The journalists were arrested on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, a report by the Voice of America Turkish service said on Thursday.

Journalist Sibel Yükler shared on Twitter a photo and a message sent by Ömer Çelik, one of the arrestees, through his lawyer. The message said: “Thanks to everyone who has been in solidarity with us, they will carry our load now.”

Last week Turkish authorities sparked outrage among opposition politicians, press members and rights activists who said the detention of 22 people, including 20 journalists, in morning raids in Diyarbakır was a huge blow to freedom of the press.

Representatives for the Human Rights Foundation (IHD) recently said at a conference that the journalists were punished for their journalistic work, while the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) said the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government was trying to “monopolize the press” with such moves, adding that they urgently needed to stop referring to government critics as terrorists and their journalistic work as terrorism.

It is common for journalists in Turkey, which has a poor record on freedom of the press, to face threats, physical attacks and legal harassment due to their work.

Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, eliminating media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure, especially after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey, which is among the top jailers of journalists in the world, was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2022 World Press Freedom Index, released in early May.

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