The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on February 10 launched investigations into journalists Merdan Yanardağ and Enver Aysever due to their critical coverage of the government’s response to the February 6 earthquakes, which claimed tens of thousands of lives in the country, under Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) on allegations of fomenting enmity and hatred among the people.
“Turkish authorities should not interfere with the journalists reporting on the terrible earthquake that recently hit the southern parts of the country, and should allow them to inform the Turkish people and the world on the magnitude of this disaster,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should drop all investigations into members of the press, allow reporters to work freely, and ensure that journalists can work without fear of harassment.”
Yanardağ, editor-in-chief of the Tele1 TV station, is under investigation due to remarks made on his TV program, while Aysever, who runs his own YouTube channel, faces the probe due to his social media posts about the earthquake.
Both journalists have criticized the government for its poor response to the disaster as thousands of people are feared to be under the rubble waiting to be rescued.
According to CPJ, Yanardağ was questioned on February 10 by the prosecutor and has been banned from foreign travel while the investigation is pending. Aysever told CPJ that the authorities had not contacted him regarding the investigation.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which has claimed the lives of at least 36,000 people and injured more than 80,000 in Turkey thus far, was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that struck the region later the same day.