Union of Communities in Kurdistan

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New York, March 27, 2014--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release this week of at least eight imprisoned journalists in Turkey, but calls on Turkish authorities to scrap the charges against them and release all of the journalists jailed in the country. 

A court in the city of Adana released Özlem Ağuş, reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), from prison on February 25, 2013, pending a trial, DIHA reported. The journalist was imprisoned on March 6, 2012, on charges that included membership in the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, which the government designated a terrorist group.

Istanbul, February 11, 2013--The release of at least seven journalists and media workers from pretrial detention is a positive step toward restoring the press freedom climate in Turkey, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

1. Summary

The Committee to Protect Journalists prepared this report to highlight the widespread criminal prosecution and jailing of journalists in Turkey, along with the government’s use of various forms of pressure to engender self-censorship in the press. CPJ’s analysis found highly repressive laws, particularly in the penal code and anti-terror law; a criminal procedure code that greatly favors the state; and a harsh anti-press tone set at the highest levels of government. Turkey’s press freedom situation has reached a crisis point. 

2. Assault on the Press

Nuray Mert, one of Turkey’s most prominent political columnists and commentators, had a long history as a government critic, but in the view of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, her comments last year opposing administration policies toward ethnic Kurds went too far. Erdoğan lashed out with a personal attack that implied Mert was traitorous, setting off a torrent of public vitriol—including threats to her safety—and prompting her politically sensitive bosses to cancel her television show and newspaper column. 

3. The Anti-State Prosecutions

Journalist Ahmet Şık found himself behind bars for writing a book that was not even published. So explosive was the subject of The Imam’s Army that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan likened it to a bomb. Şık was probing too far into one of the most influential and underreported forces in modern Turkish politics—the Gülen movement.

4. The Kurdish Cases

The indictments of staffers of the Dicle News Agency are filled with the workaday details of a wire-service journalist: An editor fields tips about pro-Kurdish demonstrations; a reporter covers the story of a youth who set himself on fire as a political protest; another tries to track down a possible police crackdown against a Kurdish political party. But as conveyed in the government’s charge sheet, each detail is fraught with impropriety: The tips should have been passed along to the authorities; covering the youth’s protest was an act of propaganda; pursuing the crackdown story was intended to humiliate the government.

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