VIJAY SHAH via KIRA TVERSKAYA/Index on Censorship
Index on Censorship, an organisation championing press freedom and the rights of media workers, has expressed concern over a wave of physical attacks and assaults against journalists in Turkey, as the government cracks down on the country’s independent media in the wake of the infamous 15 July attempted coup three years ago.
After the failed coup in 2016, Index on Censorship claimed that 150 media outlets have been shut down by order of the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with 135 journalists and other media personnel currently imprisoned as of this month, according to the Turkish Union of Journalists. Now in their Monitoring and Advocating Media Freedom project organised in May, Index discovered that no less than seven reporters were the victims of serious assault in Turkey. Many journalists working in the Kurdistan area in Turkey’s south-east have also received threats and intimidation, and one, Rohat Aktaş, was recently killed in the town of Cizre.
Among the incidents noted during the project was a bloody attack on Yeniçağ columnist Yavuz Selim Demirağ, who was beaten with baseball bats by a group of seven men outside his home in Ankara. The assailants fled by car. Six people were later arrested, then freed. Veteran journalist İdris Özyol was also jumped by a group of thugs outside his workplace, the offices of a local newspaper named Akdeniz’de Yeni Yüzyıl in the city of Antalya. Demirağ suffered some injuries to his arm and head.
Two news staff working for the television station Beyaz TV were assaulted in Ankara while filming a piece on a local cemetery was in need of repair. Another journalist was shot in the leg in front of his little granddaughter while he was at home in the province of Adana. Another journalist was attacked by assailants armed with knives and bats in front of his juvenile family members as he left a mosque after prayers.
Much of the violence against journalists uncovered in the project was due to political disagreements from local politicians unhappy with news coverage about them. Other causes included general distrust of the media by political elites and the police, and the power struggle between conservative and nationalist elements of the Turkish political environment. Index on Censorship expressed concern about the worsening situation for Turkish news professionals, stating that reporters there are under ‘continuing pressure’.
Another organisation engaged in safeguarding human rights for media personnel, the Committee to Protect Journalists, also voiced concerns about the situation in western Asia. Its Europe and Central Asia program co-ordinator, Gulnoza Said, commented that the increased violence against journalists was appearing to “signal an alarming cycle of violence against critical voices in Turkey,’
“We call on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to strongly condemn the attacks and to instruct his law enforcement to bring those responsible to justice and to ensure the safety of journalists” Said added.
The Turkey Journalists’ Society (TGC) has condemned the horrific attacks on its members. In a statement, the TGC said: “We expect that the impunity imposed on all attacks on newspapers and journalists will not be applied in this case. It is impossible to talk about democracy in a society where there is no freedom of the press. Social peace cannot be achieved in an environment where newspapers and journalists are constantly targeted. Attacks on the press are direct attacks on the public’s right to receive information and learn the truth. We want those responsible to be found and punished as soon as possible”.
Between February and May 2019, Index recorded over one hundred violations of press freedom in Turkey, of which 96 criminal prosecutions and fines, five physical attacks, and seven arrests or spells in detention were experienced by people working for the press. Three journalists also faced court summons in the course of their work.
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“Turkish journalists facing unprecedented surge of physical assaults” – Kira Tverskaya, index/Index on Censorship (25 July 2019) https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2019/07/turkey-physical-violence-report/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=social-pug