On 28 December 2023, Furkan Karabay, the editor of the news portal Gerçek Gündem (The Real Agenda – https://www.gercekgundem.com/), found himself in the custody of Istanbul, Türkiye / Turkey police in a concerning development for press freedom. Karabay, was detained in front of the Gerçek Gündem office and was kept at the Istanbul Police Department for hours without being allowed to see his lawyer. On 29 December, after spending the night at the police station, Karabay was released pending trial and was brought to the courthouse on 29 December in handcuffs and after to Karabay Marmara Prison.
During the interrogation at the 7th Criminal Magistrate Judgeship in Istanbul, Türkiye / Turkey Karabay allegedly staunchly defended his journalistic practices, asserting that his reporting was conducted in the public interest and without distorting or commenting on the court statements. He emphasized that, as a journalist, he acts independently on behalf of the public, not on specific instructions.
The arrest not only raises concerns about the intimidation faced by journalists reporting on sensitive issues in Türkiye / Turkey but also highlights the broader challenges to media freedom in the country.
On 8 January 2024, 26th Criminal Court of First Instance in Istanbul, Türkiye / Turkey decided to release Furkan Karabay from prison. Emphasizing his commitment to continue reporting, Karabay affirmed, “We will never hesitate to take responsibility.” The release decision followed objections from Karabay’s lawyers challenging his detention. There is still in his case a judicial control with a travel ban.
His detention was the result of his article published on 27 December, were he reported about a case of corruption and bribery trial of members of the judiciary. Allegations against Karabay included the charges of for allegedly ” targeting a person who took part in the fight against terrorism” and defamation. He was arrested for reporting on a public court documents – -available court minutes. You can see the link to Furkan Karabay article here: https://www.gercekgundem.com/siyaset/hakimler-ve-savcilar-kuruluna-o-hakim-ve-savcilar-hakkinda-gorevden-alin-yurt-disina-cikis-yasagi-koyun-talebi-446068
This incident adds to the ongoing debate about the robustness of the Turkish judiciary and its compatibility with democratic values. Journalists reporting on matters of public interest should be able to operate freely without fear of retribution. The arrest of Furkan Karabay underscores the need for a more conducive environment for press freedom in Türkiye / Turkey, where journalists can fulfill their vital role as watchdogs without facing undue threats or legal repercussions. As the international community closely watches these developments, the case of Furkan Karabay becomes emblematic of the challenges journalists face in striving to maintain transparency and accountability.
The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly condemns the arrest of Furkan Karabay. The charges are an unjustifiable attempt to stifle journalistic freedom and intimidate reporters. This incident underscores the alarming deterioration of press freedom in Türkiye / Turkey and raises serious concerns about the ability of journalists to operate independently and without fear of persecution. SEEMO further urges a comprehensive review of legal frameworks to ensure the protection of journalists and the preservation of an open and transparent press environment.
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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