ISTANBUL – Early Tuesday morning in several Turkish cities a total of at least eighteen journalists were detained. The raids are part of an investigation of people who are active in Kurdish political and public organisations, which has been going on for years. One of the detained journalists is Mustafa Özer, photographer for the international press agency AFP.
A total of 38 people were taken into custody, as part of the so called ‘KCK probe’. The KCK is a network of Kurdish groups in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, of which the violent Kurdish movement PKK is also a part. The PKK is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU and the United States. Since 2009 thousands of people have been detained for allegedly having ties with the KCK and, via the KCK, with the PKK. Among the people arrested are (mostly Kurdish) mayors, academics, journalists and human rights activists.
The journalists were detained early in the morning in, among other cities, Istanbul, Izmir, Diyarbakir, Adana, Van and Ankara. In house searches computers, books and memory cards of digital cameras were taken. In the event the journalists are arrested based on that, there is a big chance they will end up in jail for a long time without conviction or indictment. Judicial processes are very slow in Turkey.
With today’s arrests the total of journalists in jail in Turkey has reached more than eighty, based on a list compiled by the European Journalism Federation. Concerns about press freedom in Turkey are increasing: on the most recent press freedom list of Reporters Without Borders, Turkey dropped to 138th place, between Singapore and Ethiopia.
The Turkish government rejects worries about worsening press freedom. Prime Minister Erdogan and Minister for EU Affairs Bagis claim that journalists are not jailed because of their work, but because of connections with terrorism. This concerns not only the KCKprobe, but also journalists who allegedly have ties with Ergenekon, a shady group that supposedly wanted to topple the AKP government.