Rights group urges Turkey to release seven journalists detained by police

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a U.S.-based organisation promoting press freedom, called on Turkish authorities on Wednesday to release seven journalists that have been detained since Aug. 19 during protests in southeast Turkish provinces against the government’s decision to remove elected mayors.

Protests kicked off in Diyarbakır, Van, and Mardin, after the Interior Ministry announced on Monday that it had replaced elected mayors from the predominantly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) with government-appointed ones.

The police arrested Ziyan Karahan, the Kurdish-language editor for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, at her home in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, CPJ said, citing a report by her employer. The following day, police arrested five journalists who were covering protests against political appointees in Mardin, while Ayşegül Tözeren, a writer and columnist for the left-wing daily Evrensel, was also taken under custody after the police raided her home in Istanbul.

“The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan shows no sign of easing its clampdown on Turkey’s media and the unjust imprisonment of reporters for doing their jobs,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York. “The journalists arrested since August 19, as well as the dozens of other journalists sitting in Turkish jails for their work, should be released immediately.”

Turkey is the world’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 68 in jail in direct relation to their work at the time of CPJ's 2018 prison census, the right group said.