RSF urges Turkey to end police violence against journalists

RSF called on the Interior Ministry to respect journalists covering demonstrations.

The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounced police violence against and detentions of journalists in Turkey, calling on the Ministry of Interior to end violence against journalists following demonstrations.

"Turkey's Interior Ministry to ensure that the police respect the work of journalists covering protests and stop arresting them and subjecting them to violence," it said, adding, "The Constitutional Court's decisions on journalists covering protests must be fully respected."

Önderoğlu: These bad practices must stop

"The interior ministry's recalcitrant attitude in defying the Constitutional Court's decisions is undermining the role of journalists," said Erol Önderoğlu, RSF's representative in Turkey. "It is unacceptable that media representatives are attacked or arbitrarily detained at every demonstration. These bad practices must stop."

The RSF statement mentioned the detention of AFP photojournalist Bülent Kılıç during the LGBTI+ Pride March on June 26, where more than 300 people were detained. "The police cuffed his hands behind his back and took him to national police headquarters in Istanbul, where he was released in the evening. He told RSF that he had filed a complaint accusing the police of violence and illegal detention."

Kılıç was detained during last year's Pride March as well.

Reluctance of the courts

The RSF statement further mentioned the cases of journalists Gökhan Biçici, Erdal İmrek and Beyza Kural, a former Bianet reporter:

"Three journalists have exposed the reluctance of Turkey's courts to prosecute police officers for violence against reporters but, thanks to their determination in taking their cases to the Constitutional Court, nine police officers are now in the dock.

"The trial of three of these police officers, who are attached to the Istanbul security department and who are accused in connection with Biçici's violent arrest nine years ago, is due to begin on 30 June before an Istanbul criminal court.

"Biçici was arrested while trying to cover major protests on 15 June 2013 in Istanbul's Gezi Park, where environmentalists were preventing a construction project from going ahead. Lower court decisions to dismiss his case against the police officers were overturned by the Constitutional Court on 8 June 2021, forcing the Istanbul prosecutor's office to charge them.

"The trial of three police officers accused of attacking and then detaining Imrek, a former reporter for the daily newspaper Evrensel (Universal), began on 24 June in Istanbul. In Istanbul on 31 May 2014, after separating Imrek from demonstrators and isolating him, the police officers kicked him several times and sprayed pepper spray in his face.

"A former Bianet website reporter, Kural has also had to wage a determined battle against institutional impunity to bring three police officers to trial. They are accused of brutally arresting her while she was trying to cover a student protest at Istanbul University on 6 November 2015 against the Council for Higher Education (YÖK), which runs Turkey's universities.

"Nothing will ever be the same and you are going to learn that” one of the police officers told her as she was being transported in a police bus, after being arrested and cuffed with her hands behind her back. Their trial will continue on 30 September.

"The lawyers representing Imrek and Kural are trying to get the charges against the police officers changed from 'violence causing minor injuries' and 'obstructing professional activities' to 'mistreatment and degrading treatment' and 'violating press freedom'."