Hamdiye Çiftçi, a freelance journalist who was jailed for publishing a story about police brutality in Hakkari province, said her family was facing the consequences of her work in an interview with the Independent Turkish service.
Çiftçi claims her sister was fired from her job as a nurse because of her journalistic work. “Objective journalism is perceived as a crime in Turkey,” she said. “Authorities use my work against me, to fire me or prosecute me. But now it is also affecting my family.”
Çiftçi stayed in pretrial detention for two years over alleged links to the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the umbrella organization of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), due to her work for the Dicle News Agency (DIHA), which was shut down in 2016 with an emergency decree-law. Her notes and video recordings confiscated by the police during a raid on her house were used as evidence against her. She was released by the Van 3rd High Criminal Court in April 2012 pending trial, and her trial is still underway.
Çiftçi said she has been paying the price for reporting on police brutality. She covered the story of Cüneyt Ertuş, a 14-year-old boy whose arm was allegedly broken by the police in 2008 during the Newroz spring festival. She was tried and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for disclosing the identity of a member of the security forces working in counterterrorism.
Turkish journalists are often targeted and jailed for their journalistic activities. Turkey is one of the world’s biggest jailers of professional journalists and ranked 153rd among 180 countries in terms of press freedom in 2021, according to RSF.
According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 173 journalists are behind bars in Turkey and 167 are wanted and either in exile or at large.
The Council of Europe’s (CoE) annual report, “Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists,” in April called on Turkish authorities to cease all actions aimed at blocking or criminalizing independent reporting and take steps to restore judicial independence.