The undersigned media freedom, freedom of expression and human rights organisations strongly condemn Turkey’s detention of T24 editor Sibel Yükler, Mezopotamya Agency (MA) reporters Delal Akyüz and Fırat Can Arslan, Bianet editor Evrim Kepenek, and freelance journalist Evrim Deniz in Turkey on 25 July. While four of these journalists were conditionally released, Arslan was arrested later the same day and remains in custody. We demand his immediate release.
The five journalists were detained the day after the ‘Day of Struggle for Press Freedom’, which is marked in Turkey on 24 July, during several house raids.
Local media outlets reported that the journalists were detained over their social media posts concerning the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) reassigning a prosecutor and a judge, who are married, to the recent court case of 18 journalists in Diyarbakır. The journalists are reportedly being accused of ‘disclosing, publishing and targeting a public official on anti-terror duties’ (Anti-Terror Law Art. 6/1).
T24 editor Yükler was detained during a raid on her home in Ankara in the early morning and taken to the Ankara police department. Yükler was released later in the day under judicial control, including an international travel ban.
MA reporter Arslan was also detained during a morning raid on his home in Ankara. Police reportedly seized Arslan’s phone and computer during the raid. Arslan was arrested later that day on the charge of ‘identifying officials on anti-terror duties as targets’.
Akyüz, who also reports for MA, was detained in his home in İzmir early in the morning and taken to a police department in the city’s Çankaya district. Akyüz was released later that day and placed under judicial control including an international travel ban.
Bianet editor Kepenek was detained in the afternoon hours of the same day in her Istanbul home. The police seized Kepenek’s digital equipment and cuffed the journalist with plastic handcuffs before taking her to a police department in Taksim, central Istanbul. The police stated that Kepenek was taken into custody as part of an investigation conducted by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on the grounds of “disclosing, publishing and targeting a public official on anti-terror duties”. After one day in detention, Kepenek was brought to the Istanbul Courthouse in metal handcuffs on the morning of July 26. Kepenek was released under judicial control including an international travel ban.
Freelance journalist Deniz was detained when she went to a local police department in Diyarbakır to give her statement upon the request of the local police. She was released later that day and placed under judicial control including an international travel ban.
Article 6 (1) of the Anti-Terror Law, under which the journalists are investigated, is being misused in order to punish journalists for sharing information of public interest that is publicly available. The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers have previously expressed their reservations about the application of the provision for failure to recognise the defence of truth and public interest.
The fact that the prosecutor who prepared the indictment against journalists who were arrested en masse turned out to be married to one of the three judges on the panel of judges on the same case, and that this prosecutor and judge were later reassigned, is public information and is of public interest. Therefore, reporting and dissemination of such information must be regarded as journalistic activity.
According to the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS), 20 journalists were in jail as of 12 July, 2023.
We stand in solidarity with the journalists in detention and call on the Turkish authorities to stop abusing anti-terror laws, and to stop the arbitrary and systematic detention of journalists.
Amnesty International Türkiye
Association for Monitoring Equal Rights
Association of Journalists in Ankara
Association of Lawyers for Freedom
Association of Life Memory Freedom
Citizens’ Assembly – Turkey
Civil Rights Defenders
Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Freedom of Expression Association (İFÖD)
Human Rights Agenda Association
International Press Institute (IPI)
IPS Communication Foundation / Bianet
Lambdaistanbul LGBTI+ Solidarity Association
May 17 Association
Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
Media and Migration Association
Media Research Association (MEDAR)
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
Platform for Independent Journalism (P24)
Research Institute on Turkey
Roma Memory Studies Association (Romani Godi)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Truth Justice Memory Center
Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project (TLSP)
University Queer Researches and LGBTI+ Solidarity Association (UniKuir)
Women’s Time Association
9th Istanbul Trans Pride Week Committee
31st Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week Committee
Women for Women’s Human Rights – New Ways