Thirty-eight more Turkish journalists were detained on Tuesday in a new wave of police operations against The Union of Kurdish Communities (KCK), the umbrella organization that also includes the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Thousands of journalists and their supporters took to the streets in Istanbul and Ankara, protesting the detention of their colleagues, who are due to appear in court very soon.
20 of the journalists are reported to have begun a hunger strike in police detention.
According to media reports the detained journalists are accused of being members of the press arm of the KCK. Most of the detained journalists are working for the Kurdish media, but among them are two reporters of the leftist daily BirGun, a reporter of the mainstream daily Vatan and a photographer of the French news agency AFP.
Turkish journalists organizations and the Freedom For Journalists Platform (GOP), which brought together almost 100 journalists associations, strongly condemned the detentions and demanded the removal of the Anti-Terror Law under which they were arrested.
“There are more than 70 journalists in prisons and we’re expected to accept that more will be joining them. We’re here today not just to defend the journalists but our right to information and our freedom of speech” said Alper Turgut, Turkish Union of Journalists (TGS), during the protest in Istanbul.
AEJ Deputy Chair L. Dogan Tilic condemned the detentions in a statement to Turkish media, saying that “there seems to be people in power who wants Turkey to break an unbreakable record concerning the number of journalists in jail. These detentions lead to an atmosphere of fear in the country and to self-censorship among journalists”.
“A new term, authoritarian democracy is in currency for a while. Now the democracy is gone and we’re stuck with authoritarian. Whatever the issue may be, it’s the press’ duty to scrutinize it. All governments must realize this: It’s our duty” said Tugrul Eryılmaz, senior editor of Radikal daily who protested the detentions.
The recent detention of 38 journalists came while 65 journalists were already in jail awaiting trials. Government officials claim that the jailed journalists were not jailed for journalistic activities but for “terrorist activities”, an argument rejected by Turkish nor international journalists and human rights organisations.
Last month the AEJ was a part of an international mission to demonstrate solidarity with jailed journalists and to demand their immediate release. The mission also issued a report and voiced the serious concerns of international organisations to the Turkish government and politicians.