The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Turkey to release an employee of the pro-Kurdish Yeni Yaşam newspaper as well as all journalists, media workers and others detained in retaliation for local outlets’ reporting on Kurdish politics and rights issues.
Hamdullah Bayram, who works in distribution for Yeni Yaşam, was detained on March 16 in the southern city of Mersin as part of an investigation by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Bayram was arrested five days later by a local court in Ankara.
“Turkish authorities should immediately release Yeni Yaşam employee Hamdullah Bayram and all journalists who are being held behind bars on trumped-up terrorism allegations,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York. “Authorities must stop retaliating against journalists and other media outlet employees over outlets’ coverage.”
In February the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office indicted 10 Kurdish journalists, nine of whom have been in pretrial detention since late October, on the charge of membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) editor Diren Yurtsever; MA reporters Berivan Altan, Ceylan Şahinli, Deniz Nazlım, Emrullah Acar, Hakan Yalçın, Salman Güzelyüz and Zemo Ağgöz Yiğitsoy; freelance journalist Öznur Değer; pro-Kurdish news website JİNNEWS reporter Ümmü Habibe Eren; and former MA reporting intern Mehmet Günhan are facing up to 15 years in prison, according to the indictment.
Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, shutting 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.
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.