Turkish gov’t’s persecution targeting Kurdish journalists intensifies with new detentions

The Turkish government has intensified its crackdown on Kurdish media with repressive new measures and the detention of the pro-Kurdish journalists.

Police detained journalist İshak Yasul, managing editor of the pro-Kurdish Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper, on Friday. Bianet reported that Yasul was being held at the İstanbul Police Department on the grounds that a detention warrant had been issued for him.

Özgürlükçü Demokrasi was raided by the police on March 28 and was transferred to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF).

İshak Yasul

The pro-Kurdish Mesopotamia news agency reported that Yasul went to the İstanbul Police Department with his lawyer on Friday where he was detained by police, thus adding the journalist to the people who are being held in custody as part of the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi investigation.

The people who are currently under detention in the probe are:

Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper grant holder İhsan Yaşar, Managing Editor İshak Yasul, owner of Gün Printing House Kasım Zengin and printing house employees Erdoğan Zamur, Musa Kaya, Cemal Tunç, Kemal Daşdöğen, İrfan Karaca, Mehmet Emin Sumeli, İhsan Sinmiş, Uğur Selman Kelekçiler, Kazım Göçer, Necati Hızarcı, Mahmut Abay, Mehmet Özkara, Cumali Öz, Mürsel Demir, Polat Arslan, Süleyman Güneş, Cenk Kale, Cengiz Kaya, İsmail Ergene, Semih Tamay, Özgür Bozkurt and Sadettin Demirtaş.

Filiz Zeyrek

Meanwhile, 31 people including JinNews reporter Filiz Zeyrek were detained on Friday in  police raids conducted in six provinces across Turkey. JinNews reported that security forces conducted simultaneous raids on 42 homes in the provinces of Adana, İstanbul, Isparta, Mersin, Osmaniye and Mardin. Thirty-one people, including journalist Zeyrek as well as one child and three women, were detained.

According to the report, these people were detained due to their social media posts on charges of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” and “finding members for and committing crimes on behalf of the organization and engaging in illegal activities.”

Moreover, according to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF) on Friday, printing houses in Turkey have refused to publish Welat, the sole remaining Kurdish newspaper in the country, due to pressure and threats from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

After Turkish government seized Gün Printing House and Özgürlükçü Demokrasi in İstanbul, Azadiya Welat’s contract with a printing house in Adana was terminated with no reason. Despite all the efforts none of the printing houses accepted to print Azadiya Welat because of the government oppression.

Speaking in a press conference in Diyabakır on Saturday, Zeynel Abidin Bulut, the owner of Azadiya Welat, said that they decided to cease the print edition and will continue the digital edition of the newspaper. “We will never give up. We will continue our journalism in our mother tongue via the internet” he said.

Abidin said that they can’t print the newspaper because of threats and pressure by the government and added, “The only daily newspaper in Kurdish is Welat and we can’t find a print house which will print this newspaper in this country. After a trustee was appointed to Özgürlükçü Demokrasi and Gün Printing House, our contract with the printing house in Adana was terminated.”

The Kurdish newspaper, dating back to the weekly Welatê me and Welat papers of 1992, continues the tradition of Azadiya Welat and Rojeva Welat. The Welat newspaper started publication on August 26, 2017 with the slogan “Not broken, not brought down.”

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 245 journalists and media workers were in jail as of March 26, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 189 were under arrest pending trial while only 56 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 140 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 about 200 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Take a second to support SCF on Patreon!