Russia’s state-run Sputnik news agency has closed down its Kurdish-language website at the request of the Turkish government, according to a report by online news outlet Artı Gerçek.
Sputnik announced on Saturday that it had ended its Kurdish language website without mentioning any particular reason for the decision. “Dear readers, we are focused on providing you the best possible service, but we have to end our news services in Kurdish,” the statement said. The news agency advised readers to follow other Sputnik websites in the region.
Meanwhile, former employees of Sputnik Kurdish claim the news agency terminated its service in Kurdish at Turkey’s request
Turkey has been stepping up its crackdown on its Kurdish minority since 2016. Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, while hundreds of national and local Kurdish politicians have been arrested on terror charges.
Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 243 journalists and media workers were in jail as of June 27, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 184 were under arrest pending trial while only 59 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 143 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.