Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Germany has condemned the increasing attacks and threats against journalists in Turkey, Deutsche Welle Turkish Service (DW) reported.
RSF said they feared attacks on journalists would increase during the upcoming elections in 2023. “We are concerned that the attacks herald a new wave of violence against journalists, as we experienced in the 2019 local elections when the Justice and Development Party [AKP] and the Nationalist Movement Party [MHP] lost major cities for the first time.” said RSF’s executive director Christian Mihr.
Mihr added that there was a toxic environment in Turkey and that members of the media were under tremendous pressure. He also said journalists living in exile were also at risk of attack.
RSF said they were especially concerned about attacks from the right wing in the event the AKP and MHP lost the elections.
Journalists Ebru Uzun Oruç and Barış Oruç, who conduct street interviews for their YouTube channel “Sokak Kedisi” (Street Cat), were attacked by two armed men on August 14 in İstanbul.
During a street interview Ebru Uzun Oruç asked passersby their views about the MHP’s leader, Devlet Bahçeli, with some negative replies sparking outrage among MHP supporters. Nevzat Ünlütürk, an MHP board member, threatened Oruç on Twitter, saying the “street cat” should be neutered.
After the attack, three suspects were taken into custody but were released after interrogation. Oruç expressed her anger that the suspects had been released. “It should be known that this attack was not only made against the Street Cat team but against all members of the press in our country. The perpetrators targeted the freedom of speech and opinion of the people! Silencing the press means taking away people’s right to speak!” she said.
Bilinmelidir ki, bu saldırı sadece Sokak Kedisi ekibine yapılmamış, halkın konuşma ve fikir özgürlüğü hedef alınarak, ülkemizdeki tüm basın mensuplarına yapılmıştır! Basının susturulması halkın söz hakkının elinden alınması demektir! #SokakKedisi
— Ebru Uzun Oruç (@sokakkedisitv) August 15, 2022
Just a few days before the attack on Ebru Uzun Oruç and Barış Oruç, journalist Latif Şimşek was attacked by Democratic Party (DP) deputy Cemal Enginyurt and his bodyguard.
RSF pointed out that Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu had targeted the BirGün daily in early August by calling it a “terrorist publication.” Furthermore, MHP Deputy Chairman Semih Yalçın targeted the HaberTürk news channel and its owner, Turgay Ciner.
“It would not be good for Turgay Ciner to manage broadcasts that are hostile to the MHP, the voice of the Turkish nation in politics. One day we will surely deal with him. Ciner will pay the price for setting a trap for Turkey with what he has earned from this nation,” Yalçın said on Twitter.
Turkey, which is known as one of the top jailers of journalists in the world, was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2022 World Press Freedom Index.
Dozens of critical journalists were jailed in Turkey, while many media outlets were closed down in the aftermath of a coup attempt in the country in July 2016.