Journalist detained at Ankara airport over earthquake coverage

Journalist Fırat Bulut, Twitter

Journalist Fırat Bulut, from the Yeşil Gazete news website, was detained at the airport in Ankara on Thursday over his coverage of recent earthquakes in Turkey, the Duvar news website reported.

He was detained as part of an investigation into him for “publicly disseminating misleading information to the public,” Bulut tweeted from the airport, saying he had been reporting from the region hit by earthquakes in early February.

Journalists reporting on the shortcomings of the government’s earthquake response are facing immense pressure. In addition, Turkey’s media watchdog is penalizing TV stations due to their coverage.

Brothers Ali and İbrahim İmat, both local journalists, were earlier arrested pending trial in Osmaniye, one of the provinces affected by the quakes due to social media posts questioning the authorities over tents allegedly withheld from quake victims in the province.

In addition, Gökhan Özbek, publisher of the independent news website and online broadcasting platform 23 Derece, was briefly detained last week due to his work.

In late February Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed TL 7,990,000 ($423,000) in fines on Tele 1, Halk TV and Fox TV in addition to a five-day broadcasting ban on Tele 1 and Halk TV for their coverage in the aftermath of the earthquakes, which included criticism that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government was too slow to respond to the tragedy.

The council on Wednesday also imposed fines and a broadcasting ban on two more TV stations, Habertürk TV and Flash Haber, for their coverage of criticism about the response.

Following the earthquakes, the Turkish government was accused of poor performance in coordinating search and rescue efforts, mainly failing to mobilize enough people and a lack of coordination among the teams, which resulted in civilians in some regions trying to pull their loved ones from under the rubble themselves.

Social media users also complained about the lack of basic necessities, such as water, blankets and tents as well as medical supplies.

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