Documentary filmmaker arrested in Ankara on terrorism charges

A documentary filmmaker and journalist who was detained while shooting a film in Ankara last Friday was arrested on terrorism charges on Saturday, Turkish Minute reported, citing a statement from the İstanbul-based Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).

Sibel Tekin was detained following a complaint by law enforcement on the grounds that she deliberately filmed a police car while shooting videos for her new project about daylight saving time in Turkey.

Tekin was detained following a search of her home during which police seized two computers, digital documents, a camera and video archives.

The MLSA announced in a statement on Saturday that Tekin was arrested on charges of terrorist organization membership and taken to Sincan Prison in Ankara.

It was not clear which terrorist organization was she an alleged member of.

Tekin has shot documentaries on a wide range of events and protests that challenge the narrative of the Turkish government, such as twin bombings in Ankara in 2015 by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that claimed the lives of 103 people; the anti-government Gezi Park protests of 2013; and a historic strike launched by the Tekel tobacco workers in Turkey in 2009 following the company’s privatization.

Meanwhile, professional associations for documentary filmmakers and for journalists as well as many of her colleagues condemned Tekin’s arrest in a statement and called for her immediate release.

The Association of Documentary Filmmakers (BSB) issued a statement on Monday saying that they want their friend back, recalling that a journalist’s right to shoot pictures in public and to broadcast them is guaranteed in the Turkish Constitution.

The Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD) tweeted, “Documentary filmmaker #SibelTekin was taken into custody. This is an assault not only on a journalist, not only on the right to freedom of information; but also on the ‘memory’ of peaceful gatherings and demonstrations!”

Tekin is known as the “Memory of Ankara.”

Lawyers for the Ankara bombing victims also said on Twitter that Tekin, who is part of their search for justice and is recording their legal struggle, is not alone.

According to the MLSA, at least 66 journalists were behind bars in Turkey as of Dec. 18 with the latest addition of Tekin.

Turkey, which is one of 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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