Court blocks access to news report behind journalists’ detention

A court in the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakır has blocked access to a news report about the replacement of a judge and her prosecutor husband that led to the detention of six journalists this week, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Bianet news website.

The six journalists were detained, one of whom was subsequently arrested, earlier this week due to their social media posts about the judge-prosecutor couple who were involved in the investigation and prosecution of Kurdish journalists on charges of “targeting public officials involved in the fight against terrorism.”

Mezopotamya news agency correspondent Fırat Can Arslan was arrested after appearing in court, while five other journalists, another Mezopotamya correspondent, Dela Akyüz, T24 news website editor Sibel Yükler, Bianet editor Evrim Kepenek and journalist Evrim Deniz in Diyarbakır were released on judicial probation earlier this week.

The Diyarbakır 1st Criminal Court of Peace has decided to impose an access ban on a news report by the Mezopotamya news agency about the replacement of prosecutor Mehmet Karababan and his wife, judge Seda Karababan.

The Karababan couple came to public attention during the trial of 15 Kurdish journalists who appeared in court earlier this month after more than a year in pretrial detention on charges of terrorist organization membership.

During a hearing on July 11, the journalists’ lawyers demanded the recusal of judge Karababan, who was on the panel of judges hearing their trial, because it was her husband, prosecutor Mehmet Karababan, who had indicted the journalists.

The court denied the lawyers’ request, but the couple was among more than 3,000 member of the judiciary who were reassigned on July 18 by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The 15 Kurdish journalists were released from pretrial detention.

Turkish authorities have in the last few years cracked down on websites, social media accounts and posts especially those considered to support “terrorism,” but this has led to accusations that freedom of expression has been curtailed.

Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, closing down 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.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 90 percent of the national media in Turkey, which was ranked 165th among 180 countries in the RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, is owned by pro-government businessmen and toe the official line.

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