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Turkey Urged to Release Journalist Detained for Comments on TV

A rally marking the third anniversary of the failed coup attempt in Istanbul, Turkey, 15 July 2019. Photo: EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN

Leading human rights organisation MAZLUMDER urged the Turkish government to end its “unlawful” treatment of veteran journalist Merdan Yanardag, who is being held in custody for televised remarks about a jailed Kurdish leader.

The Association for Human Rights and Solidarity for the Oppressed, also known as MAZLUMDER, called on Turkey’s government on Tuesday to release veteran Turkish journalist Merdan Yanardag, who has been detained since June 27 for comments he made about the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan People’s Party, PKK.

“We invite the authorities to adhere to national and universal legal regulations and to comply with human rights rules in their investigations and prosecutions,” MAZLUMDER said in a statement.

It described the handling of Yanardag’s case as “disproportionate” and said that the issue of whether or not he had committed any crime “can only be determined by trial”.

Yanardag, the executive editor of the TELE 1 TV channel, was taken into custody after he was accused by the prosecutor’s office of “praising a crime and a criminal” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation”. He has not yet been put on trial.

Yanardag said in a show aired on TELE 1 TV channel that the contact ban and solitary confinement imposed on jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan should be lifted.

“Abdullah Ocalan is not someone to be taken lightly. He almost became a philosopher in prison because he does nothing but read. He is an extremely intelligent person who reads politics correctly, sees it correctly, and analyses it correctly,” Yanardag also said.

His comments were criticised by ruling coalition parties, state agencies and even some opposition parties.

However, rights groups argued that his remarks should be considered an expression of freedom of speech.

PKK leader Ocalan has been kept in solitary confinement for 24 years at a prison on the remote Imrali Island near Bursa.

Since March 25, 2021, Ocalan has not been in contact with his family and lawyers, and no information has been received from Ocalan or other prisoners on the island.

The PKK has been fighting against Turkish government for more than 40 years for greater autonomy for Kurds living in the country. PKK leader and founder Ocalan was captured in Kenya in 1999 and jailed for life.

Turkey remains the world’s one of the major jailers of journalists. According to the Journalists’ Union of Turkey, TGS, at least 34 journalists are behind bars.

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