Veteran journalist briefly detained for comments on Ankara suicide bombing

Journalist Ayşenur Arslan

Veteran Turkish journalist and Halk TV host Ayşenur Arslan was briefly detained after being targeted by Ebubekir Şahin, chairman of Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), due to comments on a recent suicide bombing near Turkey’s parliament in Ankara, Turkish Minute reported on Tuesday.

On Sunday two attackers arrived in a stolen commercial vehicle and detonated explosives near the Turkish parliament. The Interior Ministry labeled the incident a “terrorist attack.” One attacker detonated himself, while the other was “neutralized.”

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed responsibility for the attack, prompting Turkish jets to retaliate by striking PKK bases in Iraq.

Listed as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community, the PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 in a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Arslan’s detention was announced on social media by Halk TV reporter Seyhan Avşar on Tuesday. Avşar said the veteran journalist was being detained at her house by the counterterrorism police and would be taken to the Çağlayan Courthouse in İstanbul’s Şişli district.

The journalist was released from detention later on Tuesday after testifying at the prosecutor’s office.

Arslan’s detention was carried out after RTÜK initiated an investigation into her and Halk TV due to her comments on the Ankara suicide bombing during her “Media Neighborhood” (Medya Mahallesi) program on Monday.

“Maybe the terrorist himself didn’t even know that he had an explosive device that could be remotely detonated,” Arslan said.

She also said it wouldn’t make sense to kill a person in Kayseri and steal his vehicle — possibly raising alarms over the murder and theft — and drive hundreds of kilometers to Ankara in a stolen vehicle to carry out the attack when they could have easily stolen a car in Ankara.

Şahin, who announced the investigation on X, formerly known as Twitter, said it isn’t possible for RTÜK to tolerate “this immoral, terrorist-supporting mentality and these grotesque comments.”

Meanwhile, Halk TV’s owner Cafer Mahiroğlu announced their decision to end Arslan’s “Medya Mahallesi” program following Şahin’s announcement, saying the “unfortunate” words uttered during Monday’s live broadcast “exceeded the boundaries of Halk TV’s stance and perspective.”

It is common for journalists in Turkey, which has a poor record on freedom of the press, to face threats, physical attacks and legal harassment due to their work.

Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, eliminating 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 failed coup in July 2016.

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