April 10, 2024

10.04.2024 – Recent Protests in Türkiye / Turkey: Journalist Face Assaults and Detentions Amid Political Unrest

Following the controversial decision by the Van, Türkiye / Turkey Provincial Election Council to nullify the victory of the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM – Halkların Eşitlik ve Demokrasi Partisi) mayoral candidate Abdullah Zeydan and appoint Abdulahat Arvas of the Justice and Development Party (AKP – Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) as the new mayor on 2 April 2024, protests erupted across Türkiye / Turkey. Zeydan won the mayoral elections in the province of Van with more than 55% of the vote. The abrupt change in leadership sparked demonstrations, highlighting concerns over the electoral process’s integrity.

In the aftermath of these developments, journalists covering the protests faced various forms of harassment and intimidation. At least seven journalists were detained while documenting the unrest, with some subjected to physical attacks and threats.

In Van, journalist Medine Mamedoğlu was assaulted and detained by police while covering a protest march by lawyers. She announced this on her X account on 3 April 2024. You can see it here: https://twitter.com/MamedogluMedine/status/1775513470076670238?s=20.

Similarly, journalist Oktay Candemir had his phone confiscated and was verbally assaulted by police while filming the protests in Van.

In Istanbul, Türkiye / Turkey also on 3 April 2024 several journalists, including Mezopotamya News Agency (MA – https://mezopotamyaajansi35.com/en) reporter Ferhat Sezgin and Yeni Yaşam (https://yeniyasamgazetesi5.com/) newspaper reporter Sema Korkmaz, were detained while covering protests in the Esenyurt district. Over 80 individuals, including these journalists, were detained by police during the crackdown on demonstrators.

Additional incidents occurred in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district, where journalists Zilan Azad and Yeşim Dokur were taken into custody while reporting on a demonstration against police violence targeting civilians during the protests. They were later released after providing statements to authorities.

In Hakkâri province, Türkiye / Turkey Colemêrg Haber (https://www.colemerghaber.com/) Publisher Mimar Serkan Kaya was forced to seek shelter in a nearby house after being attacked and threatened by individuals during protests in the city.

These events underscore the challenges faced by journalists in Türkiye / Turkey, particularly when covering politically sensitive issues. The situation in Van and other provinces reflects broader tensions within Turkish society and raises concerns about press freedom and the protection of journalists’ rights.

As protests continue and tensions persist, it is imperative to uphold democratic principles and ensure the safety and freedom of the press in Türkiye / Turkey. The incidents involving journalists must be thoroughly investigated, and measures should be taken to prevent further harassment and intimidation, allowing journalists to carry out their essential role of informing the public without fear of reprisal.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the recent assaults, detentions, and threats against journalists covering the protests in Türkiye / Turkey. These egregious acts of violence and intimidation against members of the press are unacceptable and represent a grave violation of press freedom and democratic principles. Journalists must be able to report freely and safely on matters of public interest without fear of reprisal or harm. We call on Turkish authorities to thoroughly investigate these incidents, hold those responsible accountable, and ensure the protection of journalists’ rights and safety in accordance with international standards.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.

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