DFG report for 2023: 280 journalists stood trial, 57 journalists remain in prison in Turkey

According to the Dicle Firat Journalists' Association, which presented a report in Amed on the violation of the rights of media professionals in the past year, 57 journalists remain in prison in Turkey.

The Dicle Firat Journalists' Association (DFG) presented a report on the violation of journalists' rights in Turkey in 2023 in Amed (tr. Diyarbakir). Hakkı Boltan spoke at the press conference in Kurdish and the co-chair of the DFG, Serdar Altan, read out the Turkish version. The report covers rights violations in 2023 and emphasizes the importance of struggle and solidarity.

120 journalists killed worldwide

Altan stated that the year 2023 paints a black picture and pointed to a statement by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on 31 December, according to which 120 journalists and media professionals were killed worldwide in 2023, including eleven women. 68 per cent of the slain journalists and media professionals were killed in the Gaza Strip. In this context, Altan also referred to the case of Kurdish journalist Silêman Ehmed. The RojNews editor was arrested by KDP’s security forces in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 25 October 2023 and abducted to an unknown location. He has not been heard from since.

25 journalists killed in earthquake

Regarding the situation in Turkey, Altan said that violence and repression against journalists did not stop in 2023: "Even in times of a major crisis like the earthquake, our colleagues who were following events on the ground were repeatedly prevented from doing so by law enforcement officers. Dozens of journalists were investigated for their reporting on the earthquake. Accurate and pragmatic journalism, which society needs in times of crisis, was prevented by the government and people's right to information was ignored in this way. On this occasion, we commemorate the 25 media workers who lost their lives in the February earthquakes last year due to failure to take precautions."

Detentions and arrests of media professionals

In Turkey, dozens of journalists were affected by investigations, detentions and unlawful arrests during the year, Altan continued: "16 Kurdish journalists who were detained and arrested on 8 June 2022 as part of an investigation carried out in Diyarbakır were detained for 13 months. Nine Kurdish journalists who were arrested in the course of an investigation in Ankara on 25 October 2022 and released at the first court hearing were also subjected to persecution. Journalists arrested on 25 April and 29 April 2023 as part of two separate investigations were also detained for months. Our co-chair Dicle Müftüoğlu is still unlawfully imprisoned. In addition to all these examples, Turkey also broke new ground in the arrest of journalists in 2023. Fırat Can Arslan, who was among the five journalists imprisoned on charges of 'targeting people who participated in the fight against terrorism', was the first journalist to be arrested on the basis of TMK 6/1 of 1991. Furkan Karabay, editor of Gerçek Gündem, was arrested in the last days of the year on charges of defamation and targeting a person involved in the fight against terrorism."

Censorship law

Altan emphasized that one of the most controversial laws of 2022, the Disinformation Law No. 7418, was misused as a censorship law and Sinan Aygül was the first journalist to be arrested under this new regulation. Journalist Tolga Şardan, editor Dinçer Gökçe and reporter Cengiz Erdinç were detained and Şardan was arrested under this law. "In the first year after the law came into force, at least 26 journalists were detained, arrested and put on trial. A total of 29 cases were registered. When we look at all these incidents, we realize that journalists spent most of their working time in court in 2023. 280 journalists appeared before a judge at least 821 times in one year," said Altan.

Attacks on media workers and freedom of information

Altan stated that journalists were prevented from covering news and attacked dozens of times in 2023: "Sinan Aygül, who works as a journalist in Tatvan district in Bitlis and writes about alleged irregularities in the municipality, was attacked by a police officer and a municipality employee who works as a bodyguard for the mayor of Tatvan, Emin Geylani. As our data shows, many websites were shut down and access to thousands of news and virtual media content was blocked during the year."

57 journalists behind bars

The report prepared by the DFG on rights violations in 2023 contains the following information, among others: "36 journalists were attacked, 43 journalists' homes were searched, 119 journalists were detained, 36 journalists were arrested. Over the course of the year, 64 journalists were mistreated, 38 journalists were threatened and forced to act as agents, 110 journalists were prevented from following incidents for their reporting, 37 journalists were victims of assaults in custody."

In connection with violations of journalists' freedom of opinion and freedom of expression, the report presented the following data: "75 journalists were investigated. While 66 journalists were prosecuted, 44 journalists were convicted. In total, journalists were sentenced to 48 years, 9 months and 14 days in prison and fined 147,486 TL. While the trial of 280 journalists continued, they appeared before the judge 821 times. The number of imprisoned journalists as of 4 January 2024 is 57. 58 journalists were dismissed, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed 84 penalties on 68 broadcasts, and 112 news items were banned from broadcasting. 83 websites were closed, 7,106 news items were blocked and 3,761 pieces of content on social media were banned."