CPJ calls on Turkey to investigate attacks on journalists during recent elections and treat media outlets equally

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Turkish authorities to investigate multiple incidents of journalists being attacked or obstructed from reporting during the country’s recent elections and to treat all media outlets equally regardless of political stance.

Turkey held parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14. Since neither President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan nor opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was able to exceed the 50 percent threshold in the first round of the presidential race, a runoff was held on May 28, resulting in the victory of Erdoğan.

“Turkish authorities should investigate the harassment, obstruction, and detention of journalists covering the recent run-off election, and ensure that members of the press can cover such newsworthy events freely,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “It is also past time for the media regulator RTÜK to treat every media outlet equally and ensure that news organizations are not investigated over their political leanings.”

Vedat Aker, owner of the local Batman Burada newspaper, was briefly detained while covering a dispute that erupted during celebrations of President Erdoğan’s victory on Sunday.

In the Haliliye district of southeastern Şanlıurfa province on Sunday, two unidentified men attacked Ömer Akın, a reporter from the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, according to the CPJ. 

The same day, officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) harassed or obstructed at least three journalists in separate cases, the CPJ said.

Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), said in a written announcement on Twitter on Tuesday that it is investigating opposition TV stations Fox TV, TELE1, Halk TV, KRT, TV 5, Flash Haber and Szc TV due to their airing speeches that “demeaned the public” and included insults and attacks “in an attempt to belittle” it in their broadcasts during the election.

The council said it is also reviewing the entire broadcast on Fox TV on the evening of the recent runoff during which journalist Çiğdem Toker said democracy wasn’t just about elections.

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 Erdoğan survived a coup attempt in July 2016.

RTÜK is accused of contributing to increasing censorship in the country by imposing punitive and disproportionate sanctions on independent television and radio stations critical of the Turkish government.

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