Turkish police early Friday morning detained a number of pro-Kurdish and leftist journalists in Ankara province during raids on the journalists’ houses, the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported.
Following the raids and searches of their homes police teams took the journalists — Sibel Yükler, Duygu Erol and Habibe Eren from Jinnews and Diren Yurtsever and Selman Güzelyüz from the Mezopotamya news agency — to the counterterrorism unit of the Ankara Police Department.
Police also raided the homes of reporters for the Etkin news agency (ETHA) in İstanbul on Thursday, detaining them and reportedly burning their press cards.
ETHA on Friday demanded that authorities release staff members İsminaz Temel and Havva Cuştan, who were taken into custody on Thursday. The two journalists were among 16 people detained on Thursday morning in İstanbul. ETHA said in a written statement that “police with ski masks stormed the houses of our employees and wrote ‘The Grey Wolves were here’ on the walls, just like what was done in the wake of massacres in the Sur, Nusaybin, Cizre districts of southeastern Anatolia. They plundered their houses and burned their press cards.”
Underlining that raids were also carried out on the homes of employees of JinNews and the Mezopotamya news agency and that five journalists were detained, ETHA said, “They, just like all illegitimate political authorities, want to silence those media outlets and their employees who voice the demands of the oppressed.”
Sixteen people including İsminaz Temel, Havva Cuştan, Meral Tatar, Erkan Kahça, Nihat Göktaş, Mehmet Aslan, İlhan Aslan and Özgen Sadet were detained in an operation carried out in Thursday morning. Bianet reported that 20 houses were raided during the police operations. Two lawyers and two journalists were among the detainees.
Meanwhile, veteran journalist Tuğrul Eryılmaz was given a suspended jail sentence of 15 months and TL 6,000 in fine over his participation in a solidarity campaign with the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem daily.
Özgür Gündem was earlier accused of promoting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and shut down by the government. Several intellectuals and journalists stood in as symbolic editors-in-chief of the pro-Kurdish daily in solidarity with the paper as its editor was imprisoned even before the closure. Eryılmaz is one of the people who managed the daily for a day as a show of solidarity against the Erdoğan regime’s suppression of the Özgür Gündem daily.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 259 journalists and media workers were in jail as of Oct. 17, most in pre-trial detention. Of those in prison, 235 are under arrest pending trial, while 24 have been convicted. Detention warrants are outstanding for 133 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after a failed coup on July 15, 2016.