16 journalists jailed in Turkey for “belonging to a terrorist organization”

Sixteen Turkish journalists were jailed on Thursday on charges of “belonging to a terrorist organization” in Diyarbakir, in south-eastern Turkey with a Kurdish majority, according to their prison decision, as seen by the Agence France-Presse.

Twenty journalists who work for media and production companies close to the (pro-Kurdish) People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were arrested on June 8 on charges of “belonging to the press office” of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Ankara and its organization Western allies consider a “terrorist”. They have since been placed in custody and on Thursday 16 of them were jailed, including Serdar Altan, co-president of the Association of Journalists, on charges of “belonging to a terrorist organization”, according to the decision to be held in prison and one of the lawyers of the journalists in answer to the questions of the AFP.

The remaining journalists were released under judicial supervision. According to the media local prosecutors questioned reporters about the content of their articles. “This leads us to believe that there is a pre-election maneuver to block the Kurdish political class and deprive it of a means of expression”, said Erol Onderoglu, representative of Reporters Without Borders in Turkey, answering questions from the AFP. On the other hand, he stressed that these arrests come in one moment in which Turkey says it is preparing an attack on Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

Non-governmental organizations regularly denounce the decline in press freedom in Turkey, which ranks 149 out of 180 according to the 2022 Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses the HDP, the third largest bloc in the Turkish parliament, of being the PKK’s “political front”. Hundreds of HDP members have been arrested since 2016, including leader Selahattin Demirtaş, who was jailed despite European protests.