Families of jailed journalists subjected to strip search

Gülsün Altan, wife of arrested journalist Serdar Altan and herself a journalist, said that she was subjected to strip search during a prison visit in Diyarbakır High Security Prison No. 2.

Gülsün Altan, the wife of Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) Co-Chair Serdar Altan and a journalist herself, spoke about the arrest and transfer of her husband, who was transferred from Diyarbakır D Type Prison to Diyarbakır No. 2 High Security Prison.

Serdar Altan is among the 16 journalists detained on 8 June and sent to prison on 16 June on charges of "being a member of a terrorist organization" as part of an investigation carried out by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor's Office.

Altan said that since there was a confidentiality order, neither the journalists nor their lawyers knew what the accusations were against them. “Pro-government media outlets criminalize the journalistic activities of the arrested journalists. Their activities are considered as a crime,” she said.

Altan said that her husband and other journalists were taken to Diyarbakır D-Type Prison after they were arrested. She spoke about the treatment she was given when she went to visit her husband. “We made the first visiting in private. As soon as you enter the prison, you go through multiple searches. The glass of the place where the non-contact visit was made was so dirty that during a phone call, one could neither see the face of the person, nor facial expressions. It is a very bad thing not to make eye contact and not be able to convey feelings during the visit,” she said.


Altan revealed that they were not informed during the transfer of her husband to the High Security Prison No. 2, because the transfer was carried out at midnight, and that her husband and other journalists were only given 15 minutes to pack. “We learned about the transfer when the families of other prisoners who stayed in the same jail were informed.”


Altan noted that they were able to make an open visit on Tuesday because it was the Feast of Sacrifice. “We were subjected to multiple body searches. They subjected us to go through the X-RAY seven times and each time the device was beeping. Afterwards, they took us to the dressing cabin and checked everything including our underwear. Despite the male guards and soldiers there, they forced us to pass through the X-RAY device without our underwear. We were faced with a treatment that simply amount to harassment. Myself and other families felt very uncomfortable with this situation. They also subjected the children to a strict body search. The jailed journalists were also affected by our state of mind during the visit because of the practices that we experienced.”


Altan underlined that the harassment in prisons aims at intimidating the families of the jailed journalists. “No matter what they do we will never be intimidated. They cannot prevent us from seeing our spouses and friends,” she said.


Altan underlined that the recent unlawful arrests and pressures were mostly directed at journalists. “The international public opinion, journalism organizations and their colleagues in Turkey and Kurdistan supported the jailed journalists. However, I think that this support should be more widespread. The press is always the voice, ear, eye and conscience of societies. I believe that everyone should be afraid where the press is silenced. They first silence the press and after the opposition. We saw this 6 years ago. Kurdish or opposition media outlets were shut down and injustices and unlawfulness targeting the opposition and civil society organisations followed. The public has to support journalists because journalists are the voice, ears and conscience of this society. We, as families, will stand by our spouses and friends. We must increase the struggle together.”