Man gets restraining order against journalist he attacked in eastern Turkey

Journalist Sinan Aygül after he was assaulted by people connected to the ruling party

A municipal employee who in June attacked a local journalist in eastern Bitlis province has obtained a restraining order against the journalist, claiming to be the victim in the incident, Turkish Minute reported, citing the journalist.

Sinan Aygül, editor-in-chief of Bitlis News and head of the Bitlis Journalists Association, was attacked by police officer Engin Kaplan and municipal employee Yücel Baysalı, two members of the security detail for Mehmet Emin Geylani, mayor of the Tatvan Municipality in Bitlis, on June 17.

The attack came after Aygül alleged that there were “serious irregularities and crimes” involved in some of the property sales of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)-run Tatvan Municipality.

Aygül has been constantly targeted due to his coverage of corruption allegations involving members of the AKP government. He was previously arrested following a complaint by Vahit Kiler, a former AKP lawmaker from Bitlis, but was later released. The journalist had also reported on allegations of nepotism in Tatvan.

Aygül on Friday announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Baysalı, who was arrested a day after the attack and was released pending trial last month, obtained a restraining order against the journalist 10 days after his release.

The municipal officer reportedly obtained the order under Law No. 6284 for the protection of the family and the prevention of violence against women with the approval of Tatvan District Governor Remzi Demir after telling police officers that he was threatened by Aygül.

“It is me who was the victim of the attack, me who is under threat and me who faces the risk of being attacked again. But in the decision, the assailant Yücel Baysalı, who subjected me to violence, has also been referred to as a victim of violence,” the journalist said.

In the same tweet Aygül also asked Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç and Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya whether they could make any sense of the restraining order against him, which he referred to as a “nonsense decision.”

Turkey, which is among the top jailers of journalists in the world, ranked 165th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, closing down media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure, especially after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a coup attempt in July 2016.

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