PEN calls for release of journalists in detention in Turkey

UPDATE: PEN welcomes the news that Evrensel’s journalists were released on 12 August 2016.

English PEN and PEN International call for the immediate release of the journalists Hasan Akbaş, Fırat Topal, Serpil Berk and Sertaç Kayar who were arrested in Diyarbakır following a car bomb yesterday, 10 August 2016. Hasan Akbaş, Fırat Topal and Serpil Berk are reporters for Evrensel; Sertaç Kayar is a freelance photojournalist. Evrensel’s editor-in-chief, Fatih Polat, confirmed that the journalists are in custody after meeting with the Diyarbakır governorate press director, Mustafa Çakmak.

Five civilians were killed in the attack. Five police officers and seven civilians were injured.

Following the failed coup on 15 July, the government announced a state of emergency and its derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights on 21 July. The government has since closed more than 100 broadcasters, newspapers, magazines, publishers, and distribution companies. More than 89 arrest warrants have been issued for journalists and media workers, and at least 48 are in detention. The prime minister’s office has revoked the press credentials of at least 330 journalists.[1]

On 23 July, the first emergency decree since the state of emergency extended police powers to detain some suspects for up to 30 days without being taken before a judge and limited the right of those in pre-trial detention to communicate in private with their lawyers. A second decree on 27 July allowed prosecutors to restrict access to a lawyer for the first five days of detention.

Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said:

We call on the Turkish government to respect the rule of law and the rights of journalists to report on events that are clearly in the public interest.  At a time of crisis for Turkey, it has never been more important for the press to be allowed to do its job and keep the Turkish people informed.

While the government has every right to bring those responsible for the attempted coup to justice and to restore stability, even in a state of emergency its actions must be necessary, proportionate and respect the right to a fair trial.

Ann Harrison, Director of PEN International’s Freedom to Write Programme, said:

Once again, it appears that the Turkish authorities are choosing to detain journalists seeking to inform the public of the truth of what is happening in Diyarbakir rather than to allow open discussion and debate about the conflict. While recognising the right and responsibility of the authorities to investigate criminal acts, we urge the authorities to respect freedom of expression and to release these five journalists and any others in the country held solely for their peaceful, legitimate work.

[1] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/07/turkey-crackdown-by-the-numbers-statistics-on-brutal-backlash-after-failed-coup/; https://cpj.org/blog/2016/08/turkey-crackdown-chronicle-week-of-august-7-2016.php

 

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