In Turkey, Journalists Targeted Once Again

September 4, 2015

OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images
OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

In Turkey, the crackdown on independent journalism continues. Mehmet Baransu remains in jail, apparently a victim of the government’s crackdown on the Gulen Movement.  Other journalists in Turkey have been charged under Turkey’s dangerously vague anti-terror statutes. Meanwhile, a pattern of media outlets sacking voices deemed critical of the government continues, with the newspaper, Milliyet, firing seven journalists this past month.

The Arrest of Vice Journalists

Most recently, a team from VICE news was arrested in Diyarbakir, in Southeast Turkey, where they were reporting on recent violence.  Amnesty International condemned their arrest and called for the journalists immediate release.  Today, there was some good news in the case, as two of those held, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, were released and presumably will be deported.

While Amnesty welcomes the release of the two British journalists, it is not enough.  A third journalist, Mohammed Ismael Rasool is still under arrest in a case that Amnesty’s Turkey Researcher, Andrew Gardner, has described as “unsubstantiated, outrageous and bizarre.”  The charges suggested the journalists were working for both the Kurdish PKK and ISIS despite the fact that the two groups are effectively at war with each other.  Encryption software that is readily available and entirely legal in Turkey is apparently key evidence in the case.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Gardner said, called the prosecutions of the journalists “a blatant case of punishing legitimate journalism using anti-terrorism laws” and recalled that “authorities have long used anti-terrorism laws to suppress dissent and target journalists, but journalists from Turkey have borne the brunt of this repression. The fact that international journalists have been targeted is a sign of further deterioration.”

“Violence between the PKK and the security forces has been escalating, as have human rights abuses in this context. It’s obviously a story that they government does not want to be told,” Gardner said.

In recent weeks, Amnesty has noted serious human rights abuses in the region, from the bombing of civilians, to the abuse of prisoners.  Arresting journalists who cover the story will not make this ugly reality go away.