European Federation of Journalists

Turkey: we condemn detention of journalists in Ankara, Diyarbakır, İstanbul and İzmir

Credits: MFRR.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the undersigned media freedom, freedom of expression and human rights organisations strongly condemn the 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 July 25.

While four of these journalists were conditionally released, Arslan was arrested later the same day. We demand his immediate release.

The five journalists were detained the day after July 24, which is marked in Turkey as “Day of Struggle for Press Freedom”, during several house raids.

Local media outlets reported that the journalists were detained over their social media posts concerning the reassignment of a prosecutor and a judge, to whom the former is married, by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), involved in 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 hours 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”.

MA reporter Akyüz 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 defense 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 of 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), an EFJ affiliate, 20 journalists were in jail as of July 12, 2023.

We stand in solidarity with the journalists in detention and call on the Turkish authorities to stop abusing anti-terror laws, and the arbitrary and systematic detention of journalists.

Signed by:

  • Amnesty International Türkiye
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Association for Monitoring Equal Rights
  • Association of Journalists in Ankara
  • Association of Lawyers for Freedom
  • Association of Life Memory Freedom
  • Articolo 21
  • Citizens’ Assembly – Turkey
  • Civil Rights Defenders
  • Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
  • English PEN
  • 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
  • Kaos GL
  • Lambdaistanbul LGBTI+ Solidarity Association
  • May 17 Association
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • Media and Migration Association
  • Media Research Association (MEDAR)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • PEN International
  • 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

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.