15 journalists and one media worker in prison in Diyarbakır must be released, says PEN

PEN International said that 15 journalists and one media worker held in pre-trial detention in Diyarbakır must be immediately released.

PEN International issued a statement calling on the Turkish authorities to "immediately release 15 journalists and one media worker held in pre-trial detention in Diyarbakır, south-eastern Turkey."

The statement added: "Turkey must stop using anti-terrorism and other laws to target independent journalists and uphold the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to give and receive information."

The statement recalled that on 8 June 2022, 20 journalists and one media worker were detained following home raids in Diyarbakır, as part of two separate criminal investigations conducted by the Diyarbakır Prosecutor’s Office. The offices of Jin News, Pel Production, Piya Production and Ari Production were also raided, with police officers confiscating cameras, computers, news equipment, and other documents. 

The statement said: "The journalists and media worker were held in police custody for eight days. Neither them nor their lawyers were given information about the operations or investigations. On 16 June, the detainees were questioned about their journalistic activities and social media posts, and were notably asked what they thought of the PKK. Later that day, the court ordered the arrest of 16 of them on ‘strong suspicion of membership of a terrorist organisation’; the others were released on probation and placed under a travel ban. They must also report to the police station twice a month."

Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee said: "PEN International strongly condemns the arrests of 15 journalists and one media worker in Diyarbakır, which appear to be part of a systematic effort to silence independent media in Turkey and have a chilling effect on free speech. We fear the journalists are being punished for doing their job. They must be released from pre-trial detention immediately."

The journalists and media worker currently held in pre-trial detention are:

Lezgin Akdeniz: camera operator

Safiye Alagaş: manager of the pro-Kurdish, all-women news website Jin News

Serdar Altan: freelance journalist, TV show host, and co-chair of the local media advocacy group Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG)

Zeynel Abidin Bulut: TV show host, editor for the Kurdish language weekly newspaper Xwebûn

Ömer Çelik: TV show host and a former editor of the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency

Suat Doğuhan: camera operator and owner of Pel Production

Mehmet Ali Ertaş: TV show host and news editor for Xwebûn

Ramazan Geciken: camera operator for Pel Production

Mazlum Doğan Güler: camera operator for Piya Production

İbrahim Koyuncu: camera operator

Abdurrahman Öncü: camera operator for Piya Production

Aziz Oruç: editor for Mezopotamya News Agency

Mehmet Şahin: TV show host for Piya Production and columnist for Xwebûn

Remziye Temel: accountant for Piya Production

Neşe Toprak: TV show host for Pel Production

Elif Üngür: TV show host for Piya Production