Aygül: Journalists in Turkey and Kurdistan risk their lives

Sinan Aygül said that journalists in Turkey and Kurdistan risk their lives. "It is impossible to speak of freedom of the press here. Unfortunately, being a journalist means risking your life," he said.

Sinan Aygül, an investigative journalist who specializes in exposing corruption in the AKP municipality of Tatvan in the province of Bitlis, was the victim of a violent attack after his feature was published.

Thanks to clear surveillance camera footage and massive public pressure, the attackers, Yücel Baysal, Tatvan mayor's bodyguard, and police officer Engin Kaplan were arrested. They are accused of intentional bodily harm using a weapon.

"We will not be silent"

Sinan Aygül, who has long reported corruption, irregularities and dirty affairs in Tatvan, exposed further irregularities related to the city government's real estate tenders. "The exposure of this corruption was the last straw. As a journalist, I've faced threats before. But this attack was intended to send a clear message: that theft and corruption will continue to be tolerated and that no one should dare to oppose it." He added: "I got that message, but I will continue my journalistic work exactly where I left off, with even more determination. This attack was aimed at silencing us, but we would not remain silent. We will raise our voices even louder and continue our work undeterred."

The background of this attack

Aygül said that Tatvan is a small town where people know each other and added: "How dare they carry out such an attack? So obvious and blatant. In the past, I have reported on far larger and more serious cases of corruption and dealt with far more dangerous individuals. But so far no one has dared to do such a thing. They made a mistake. They didn't realize where their actions would lead. That's one aspect. The other aspect is that those who stood behind them gave them appropriate assurances. The attackers were assured that no one could harm them. This fact must not be ignored either."

"They attacked with intent to kill"

Aygül does not consider the attack as a simple threat, but as an attempted murder. He said: "They hit me on the head from behind with a crowbar. Both the crowbar and brass knuckles were in their possession. So their goal was clearly to kill me. Far from being an act of intimidation, it was undoubtedly attempted murder. The attack happened right after the publication of my last feature about the city government. The masterminds of this attack were the mayor's bodyguards, their closest associates and their relatives. The person behind this attack must be extremely influential as one of the perpetrators was a police officer and the other was a city official. These people put their own lives and jobs at risk. The mastermind of this action is therefore an important personality. We will track this person down."

"This country is hell for journalists"

Aygül said that the lack of freedom of the press is, unfortunately, "not a new problem. Over the past 20 years, restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of expression have reached levels comparable to those in other dictatorial countries. All laws passed since then do not advocate journalism and freedom of information, but work against them. It's about restricting, controlling and censoring the press. The population's right to information is being eroded. The most recent censorship law is particularly problematic. I am the first and so far only journalist to have been arrested and convicted under this law. These laws empower government agencies and their corrupt networks. If there were a free press in a truly democratic environment, such machinations would not be possible in such a bold way. Unfortunately, however, that is not the case. Working as a journalist in Turkey and Kurdistan means risking your life. Unfortunately, dozens of colleagues have been murdered here in the history of this country’s press. Hundreds of our colleagues have already been subjected to violence and have been beaten in the streets. Hundreds of our friends are still in prison. Freedom of the press doesn’t exist here. Unfortunately, this country is hell for journalists."