Local journalist fatally shot in attack in northwestern Turkey

A journalist who owned a local news website in northwestern Turkey was fatally shot in front of his office on Saturday, Turkish media outlets reported.

Güngör Arslan was attacked by a gunman in the İzmit district of Kocaeli province over the weekend. The journalist, who was critically injured, succumbed to his injuries at a nearby hospital.

The assailant, identified as Ramazan Ö., was detained following the attack, Kocaeli Governor Seddar Yavuz announced. He also said an investigation had been launched into the attack to find the motivation behind it.

In his first statement to the police, the suspect said he killed the journalist because he did not like the views in one of his articles, without elaborating.

In the last article he wrote for his seskocaeli.com news website on Feb. 18, Arslan criticized Kocaeli Mayor Tahir Büyükakın, from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), for awarding a public tender to a pro-government company, Haldız Construction. The journalist also wrote about allegations made a competitor, Zeray Construction, which was eliminated from the tender, saying the mayor should respond to Zeray’s questions about irregularities in the bidding process.

Arslan was laid to rest in Kocaeli on Sunday.

Arslan’s murder led to outrage among press organizations in Turkey, where journalists are frequently subjected to physical attacks and legal harassment due to their work. The press organizations called on the government to investigate Arslan’s murder and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also condemned the attack, with CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator Gulnoza Said saying, “We call on Turkish authorities to launch a swift and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding journalist Güngör Arslan’s killing and to determine whether journalism was a possible motive for the shooting.”

“The fact that police apprehended the suspect and found a weapon is promising. Now they must ensure that everyone involved in the killing, including any potential masterminds, are brought to justice.”

Turkey, which has dropped precipitously since it was ranked 100th among 139 countries when Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published its first worldwide index in 2002, when the AKP government came to power, was ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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