Media organisations have slated the arrest of a journalist for reporting about the new posting of a judicial power couple responsible for jailing dozens of journalists – four others detained for retweeting the report have since been released.
Turkish and international media organisations condemned the arrest of a journalist for reportng the new posting of a married judge and prosecutor couple who had previously jailed dozens of journalists.
Four other journalists were also taken into police custody for retweeting the news report. They have since been released.
“Raids and the detention/arrest of five journalists are unacceptable. This is an assault on media freedom and society’s right to access information. Journalists cannot be subjected to judicial harassment because of their work and become the target of investigations and raids for uncovering something wrong,” said the Coordinator of Media Freedom Rapid Response at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, a nonprofit that promotes and defends media freedom.
Evrim Kepenek, the last of five journalists taken into police custody in Istanbul, was released by a court on Wednesday with a judicial review measure and a travel ban, due to her retweet of a news report about the new posting of the married judge and prosecutor couple who had previously jailed dozens of journalists.
“You cannot prosecute Kepenek and other detained journalists. Journalism is not a crime,” the Journalists’ Union of Turkey, TGS, said on Wednesday.
The prosecutors’ office said the five journalists had targeted the couple and pressed charges of “marking counter-terrorism officials as a target”.
The arrested journalist, Fırat Can Arslan, a reporter for Mezopotamya Agency, MA, had covered a separate case involving 18 Kurdish journalists accused of “terrorism.”
He was arrested on Tuesday after he reported on the issue of the married judge and a prosecutor and having their work locations changed.
The other four detained for retweeting Arslan’s report and later released by the courts were: T24 news website reporter Sibel Yukler, MA reporter Delal Akyuz, journalist Evrim Deniz and Bia.net’s editor Kepenek.
Except for Arslan, all the journalists are banned from travelling abroad and have to visit police station on a regular basis.
Ozturan, of the Media Freedom Rapid Response, told BIRN that the detentions and arrests were no surprise.
“This comes as no surprise considering the long-term pressure targeting media freedom in Turkey which has been escalating especially since the beginning of the year. This pressure needs to stop and journalists need to fulfil their duties as witnesses of the time they are living in,” Ozturan said.
Media organisations and rights groups say that Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, also exerting pressure on the media through court cases, fines and prison sentences.
Turkey ranked 165th out of 180 countries in 2023 in the latest press freedom index issued by the watchdog organisation Reporters Without Borders, RSF.