ISTANBUL–Turkish police on Tuesday arrested dozens of journalists it accused of being in the “press and propaganda wing” of the PKK, targeting news organizations in Istanbul, Ankara, Sirnak, Mersin, Diyarbakir, Izmir, Urfa, and Van.
Police raided the homes of journalists and the offices of Kurdish and pro-Kurdish newspapers such as the Ozgur Gundem, Etik News Agency, Gun Printing Office, Democratic Modernity Magazine, and Dicle News Agency (DNA), reported Firat News Agency, adding that the raids were part of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) operation. Turkish authorities have been targeting KCK headquarters, accusing them of being the urban wing of the banned PKK ((Kurdistan Workers’ Party). The order of the searches and arrests came from the Istanbul 12th High Criminal Court, reported Firat.
“We consider this a witch hunt and a threat to anyone who is in opposition,” Ibrahim Aydin, chairman of Bir Gun’s executive board told CNN.
“It basically looks like all pro-Kurdish media… have been targeted in this operation. And if you crack down on those kinds of dissenting voices, you are really closing the door on healthy criticism and dissent in a democratic society,” Emma Sinclair-Webb, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying.
Police detained 13 of DNA’s staff reporters and office employees. The home of an Agence France Presse photographer was also searched, reported CNN. Meanwhile, Firat reports that four children were detained on Dec. 19 in Adana for participating in a demonstration protesting PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan’s solitary confinement and the ongoing military operations targeting the Kurdish population.
Turkey has been detaining leftist and pro-Kurdish journalists, and human rights activists, sometimes holding them for nearly a year before they appear in court.
In these latest raids, Police reportedly arrested or raided the homes of the following individuals, among others:
Serefettin Sumeli, Gun Printing Office shareholder
Mustafa Ozer, AFP photographer
Zeynep Kuray, Bir Gun reporter
Nahide Ermiş, Democratic Modernity magazine broadcasting board member
Kenan Kırıkkaya, DIHA reporter based in Ankara
Semiha Alankuş, DIHA reporter
Sadık Topaloğlu, DIHA reporter based in Sanliurfa
Fatma Koçak, DIHA news editor based in Istanbul
Çağdaş Kaplan, DIHA reporter
Zuhal Tekiner, DIHA reporter based in Istanbul
Ömer Çelik, Bir Gun reporter
Mazlum Özdemir, DIHA reporter based in Diyarbakır
Arzu Demir, ETHA’s editor and journalist based in Istanbul
Ertuş Bozkurt, Firat distribution worker
Zeynep Kuray, Kurdish media journalist
Dilek Demirel, DIHA reporter based in Izmirjournalist
Davut Uçar, Etik Agency Director
Hüseyin Deniz, journalist
Evrim Kepenek, DIHA reporter based in Van
Sevinç Tuncelli, DIHA reporter based in Izmir
Çağdaş Ulus, Vatan newspaper reporter
İsmail Yıldız, İstanbul
Ziya Çiçek, Ozgur Gundem reporter
Nuri Fırat , İstanbul
During an earlier wave of arrests in October, Turkish authorities detained over 40 individuals, over suspected ties with the KCK. Authorities also raided the offices of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Among those arrested were human rights activist and director of the Belge Publishing House Ragip Zarakolu.