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Turkey arrests 16 Kurdish journalists over propaganda charges

A total of 16 Kurdish journalists and media workers, who had been arrested after being detained last week over accusations of spreading terrorist propaganda, were imprisoned by a Turkish court, the Media and Law Studies Association and local media said on Thursday.

Contrary to the Media and Law Studies Association’s statement, the Turkish Press, Publication and Printing Employees Union (DİSK Basın-İş) tweeted a collage of detained journalists featuring 18 individuals.

The 16 journalists in question were kept in custody for eight days in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir with no formal accusations, according to the report.

The Dicle Firat Journalists’ Association, whose co-head Safiye Alagas is among the detained, tweeted on June 13 that she had been in custody for six days.

Journalist #SafiyeAlagaş has been in custody for 6 days

— Dicle Fırat Gazeteciler Derneği (@DFGDernegi) June 13, 2022

Turkish conglomerate company Demirören Group, which incorporates LPG stations, shopping malls and media outlets, said that five other journalists that were detained on June 8 were not imprisoned.

Turkey’s tally of jailed reporters puts it among the countries that have been treating journalists in the most heavy-handed way in the last decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Several media groups had condemned last week’s detentions as “ruthless”.

Journalist #AzizOruç has been in custody for 6 days

— Dicle Fırat Gazeteciler Derneği (@DFGDernegi) June 13, 2022

Among the detained were Serdar Altan, co-head of the Dicle Firat Journalists’ Association, Jin News head Safiye Alagas, and Mezopotamya news agency editor Aziz Oruc.

Journalist #SerdarAltan has been in custody for 6 days

— Dicle Fırat Gazeteciler Derneği (@DFGDernegi) June 13, 2022

The Dicle Firat Journalists’ Association tweeted a video allegedly featuring two of the detainees at an undisclosed location waving at the person recording the scene.

Tutuklanan gazetecilerden selam var.#Susturamayacaksınız

— Dicle Fırat Gazeteciler Derneği (@DFGDernegi) June 16, 2022

Mezopotamya news agency tweeted on Thursday that it would participate in a press statement in front of the Dicle Firat Journalists’ Association building in Diyarbakir.

📢 8 gündür gözaltında tutulan meslektaşlarımızdan 16'sının tutuklanmasına ilişkin bugün saat 13.00'te Dicle Fırat Gazeteciler Derneği (@DFGDernegi) önünde basın açıklaması düzenleniyor. Orada olacağız. Hakikati, halkların haber alma hakkını her koşulda savunacağız!

— DİSK Basın-İş (@Disk_Basin_is) June 16, 2022

The statement was made around 3 am on Thursday.

The clampdown came on June 8 when police in predominantly-Kurdish Diyarbakir detained the 21 journalists on a charge of making propaganda for a terrorist organisation over the preparation of television shows broadcast from Belgium and the UK, the Demirören news agency reported.

Police sources quoted by Demirören claimed they were investigating the “press committee” of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) group, an organisation designated as terrorist by Turkey, the US, the EU and some other countries.

The court in Diyarbakir was disinclined to comment.

The development was met on Monday with a statement by 837 journalists and 62 media organisations voicing their support for the detained colleagues and condemning the detention after police raids as “a blow to press freedom”. The statement called out the Turkish opposition on its “claims about law, justice, equality, freedom and democracy” and urged it to live by what it preaches and stand in solidarity with the detained. It also called on the judiciary “not to become an instrument of the government’s unlawfulness and tyranny”.

However, President Tayyip Erdogan’s government claim the courts are independent. Turkey ranks a low 149 out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders’s (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, which demonstrates it as a country in which “all possible means are used to undermine critics”.

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