Arif Kocabıyık, a journalist known for his candid street interviews, and the crew of his İlave TV YouTube channel were attacked by a group of 10 people while conducting an interview in Turkey’s southern Antalya province, Sözcü daily reported on Thursday.
The attackers left the scene on foot after attacking Kocabıyık and his crew, according to Sözcü.
“We were conducting an interview. A group of 10 people came out of nowhere and attacked us without saying a word. Then they shouted: ‘We won’t let you conduct interviews here. We’ll make Antalya unbearable for you,’ after which they ran away,” Sözcü quoted Kocabıyık as saying.
The YouTube journalist said he had bruises on his arm, lip and back due to the attack and that his cameraman also was bruised.
Kocabıyık also said in a video released on İlave TV after the attack that its perpetrators appeared to be members of the far-right Ülkücü movement, which is well organized and is also referred to as the Grey Wolves.
The Grey Wolves are seen as the militant wing of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and their ideology is mainly based on Turkish nationalism. Therefore, Kurds and other minorities in Turkey have occasionally been their targets.
Kocabıyık previously had said that more than 100 investigations have been launched into him due to the street interviews he’s conducted, with a third of them related to accusations of insulting the president, which is a crime under the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
The Turkish government has been 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.
Following the state-led takeover of the mainstream media, social media platforms as well as online news sites remain among the last bastions of critical journalism in Turkey. YouTube journalism has been particularly popular, with many young journalists conducting street interviews around the country asking people their opinions on timely topics.
The attack comes less than a week after Güngör Arslan, a journalist who owned a local news website, was attacked by a gunman in the İzmit district of Kocaeli province and succumbed to his injuries at a nearby hospital.
Arslan’s murder led to outrage among press organizations in Turkey, where journalists are frequently subjected to physical attacks and legal harassment due to their work.
Turkey, which has dropped precipitously since it was ranked 100th among 139 countries when Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published its first worldwide index in 2002, when the AKP government came to power, was ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.