July 21, 2023

21.07.2023 – Release of Kurdish Journalist After Prolonged Detention Raises Press Freedom Concerns in Turkey

On 12 July 2023, Mazlum Güler, İbrahim Koyuncu, Neşe Toprak, Mehmet Ali Ertaş, Zeynel Abidin Bulut, Ömer Çelik, Elif Üngür, Abdurrahman Öncü, Suat Doğuhan, Remziye Temel, Serdar Altan, Aziz Oruç, Ramazan Geciken, Lezgin Akdeniz, and Mehmet Şahin were released on “judicial control condition”.

15 Kurdish journalists in Turkey have been released after spending 13 months in detention without appearing in court. The decision, made by the Penal Court in Diyarbakır, Turkey, marks a significant development in a country notorious for its restrictive approach towards journalists.

The saga began on 8 June , 2022, when a total of 22 individuals, including 20 journalists, were taken into custody in Diyarbakır, Turkey.

After enduring over a year behind bars, the journalists finally had their day in court. The first hearing of the case commenced on 11 July, 2023. The journalists faced charges of being members of a terrorist organization, specifically the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in an indictment released in March 2023.

During the hearing, the journalists passionately defended themselves, with many choosing to speak in Kurdish, a reflection of the ongoing struggle to protect their cultural and linguistic rights. They vehemently denied any affiliation with terrorist organizations and emphasized their commitment to reporting the truth and giving voice to the marginalized and oppressed.

The releases are a hope for press freedom advocates, demonstrating that the court recognizes the potential legitimate scope of journalistic activities within the evidence presented in the indictment. However, the case also underscores the ongoing challenges faced by journalists and the need for comprehensive reforms to protect press freedom and uphold the right to freedom of expression in Turkey.

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