Meral Danış Bestaş from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on Thursday submitted a parliamentary question regarding the detention of 21 journalists in southeastern Diyarbakır province, the Bianet news website reported.
Addressing the Ministry of Justice, Bestaş said there was a confidentiality order regarding the investigations and demanded to know why the journalists were detained.
Turkish authorities detained 21 Kurdish journalists on Wednesday. The detainees worked for Kurdish news outlets JinNews and the Mezopotamya news agency (MA). Among those who were detained were MA’s Editor-in-Chief Aziz Oruç, JinNews News Director Safiye Alagas and JinNews Editor-in-Chief Gülşen Koçuk.
The journalists are currently in custody at Diyarbakır police headquarters’ counterterrorism division, where they are reportedly being kept in one-person cells.
The journalists’ lawyer Resul Temur contacted the prosecutor to find out why they were detained and to see his clients. However, the prosecutor said the investigations were still underway and that he was reluctant to disclose the reason for the detentions. He only said the journalists were detained for their journalism activities and servicing news for foreign television stations.
Opposition politicians, journalists and activists expressed outrage over the detentions, saying it was a huge blow to freedom of the press. At a press conference in eastern Turkey’s Van province, representatives for the Human Rights Foundation (IHD) said the journalists were punished for their journalistic work.
“The police raided the homes and offices of these journalists as if they were terrorists,” they said. “They were made to wait in handcuffs for hours while the police conducted the searches.”
They added that the independent press would never stop telling the public the truth. “Independent journalists will not give in to political pressure and violence,” they said.
Journalists in southern Mersin province also said they would not give in to political pressure and supported their detained colleagues. At a press briefing they added that censorship had become common in Turkey but that they would cover the news with the utmost transparency.
The Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) said the detention of journalists was unacceptable. “The government is trying to monopolize the press,” they said. “They want journalists to cover the news according to the government agenda. But a country where independent media does not exist cannot be democratic.”
The TGC said the government urgently needed to stop referring to government critics as terrorists and their journalistic work as terrorism. Moreover, they demanded that all detained and arrested journalists be immediately released.
Turkey is one of the world’s biggest jailers of professional journalists and was ranked 153rd among 180 countries in terms of press freedom in 2021, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Turkish journalists are often targeted and jailed for their journalistic activities.