New York, August 16, 2016 – Turkish authorities should immediately drop all charges against the country’s oldest pro-Kurdish daily newspaper, Özgür Gündem, and its staff, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Following a court order shuttering the newspaper, police in Istanbul today raided Özgür Gündem‘s office and detained at least 21 journalists, according to news reports.
“Turkish authorities have subjected Özgür Gündem‘sstaff to relentless judicial harassment for years,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “July’s failed military coup in no way justifies closing this pro-Kurdish newspaper or detaining journalists for their work. We call on authorities to release all of the journalists taken into custody and allow the newspaper to publish freely.”
According to the news channel IMC TV and the pro-Kurdish DİHA news agency, police detained at least 17 Özgür Gündem journalists today: Günay Aksoy, Kemal Bozkurt, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Önder Elaldı, Ender Öndeş, Sinan Balık, Davut Uçar, Fırat Yeşilçınar, İnan Kızılkaya, Zeki Erden, Elif Aydoğmuş, Bilir Kaya, Ersin Çaksu, Sevdiye Ergürbüz, Amine Demirkıran, Bayram Balcı, and Burcu Özkaya. Police also detained two DİHA reporters at the scene, Özgür Paksoy and Mesut Kaynar, the news agency reported. Police also detained IMC TV journalist Gülfem Karataş and cameraman Gökhan Çetin, who were filming the raid, the station reported. The station’s live broadcast showed what were apparently plainclothes police confiscating the news channel’s camera.
According to a photograph purportedly showing the court order posted on Twitter by the volunteer journalist collective 140journos, Özgür Gündem faces charges of propagandizing for a terrorist organization – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the Turkish government lists as a terrorist group — incitement to insurrection, and publishing articles that threaten the security and territorial integrity of the state. CPJ was not immediately able to verify the photograph’s authenticity.
CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.