Turkish police detain 11 journalists, including the mother of a 45-day-old baby

Turkish police raided the premises of several pro-Kurdish media outlets and private residences, detaining 11 journalists, including the mother of a 45-day-old infant, according to media reports.

The Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) tweeted that the 11 journalists were taken into custody in İstanbul and Ankara as well as in other cities including Diyarbakır in the Southeast, although no reason was given for the detentions.

Eight of the detainees work for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya news agency and three for JINNEWS, according to the union.

Mezopotamya’s Ankara correspondent, Zemo Ağgöz, the mother of a 45-day-old baby, was among those detained.

Ağgöz was taken into custody by police during a raid on her apartment, as were the 10 other journalists, at around 6 in the morning. Ağgöz’s lawyer said they tried to reach Ağgöz so she could breastfeed the baby, but they were unable to determine which police station she had been taken to. The baby had been hungry since its mother was detained and needs to be breastfed every two hours, the lawyer added.

The detention of Ağgöz and the other journalists triggered reactions from international and Turkish media and human rights activists.

“They separated a mother from her 45-day-old baby who needed to be breastfed. Those who don’t talk about journalist Zemo Ağgöz’s need to breastfeed her baby should not walk among us as opposition journalists,” said sociologist, writer and activist Veli Saçılık.

Çağrı Sarı, an editor at the Evrensel daily, commented on Ağgöz’s detention, saying, “Journalist Zemo Ağgöz, the mother of a 45-day-old infant, was taken into custody by the Erdoğan government, which supposedly cares about children, suggesting that we should strengthen the ‘family structure’ and repeatedly saying that he wants every family to have at least three children.”

 

The International Press Institute (IPI) called for the release of the 11 Kurdish journalists, tweeting, “IPI calls for release of 11 Kurdish journalists detained as part of an ‘anti-terror operation.’ Turkey regularly abuses anti-terror law to target journalists, who are frequently subject to arbitrary charges & imprisonment” and “#FreeTurkeyJournalists now!”

Turkey’s parliament this month approved a tough pre-election law that could see reporters and social media users jailed for up to three years for spreading “fake news.”

The new measures for the media come before a general election that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan enters trailing in the polls.

“At a time when the censorship law had just come into effect, many journalists’ homes were raided and the journalists were detained during the dawn operation,” the TGS said.

Opposition parties and journalists unions protested the new rules before and during the debates in the parliament.

Most Turkish newspapers and television channels fell under the control of government officials and their business allies during a sweeping crackdown that followed a failed coup in 2016.

But social networks and internet-based media remained largely free of oversight — much to the growing annoyance of Erdoğan.

Turkey is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in the annual media freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) earlier this year.

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