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Four Turkish journalists arrested: Turkey remains the worst jailer of journalists globally

This week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan praised the role of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) highlighting.

“We are going through a period in which the world is being restructured. The threats we face increase. Intelligence data are indispensable for a nation’s prosperity, not only in wartimes but also during times of peace.”

Erdoğan went on to describe most significant threat Turkey faces is terrorism and the primary focus of MIT was to address Terrorist threats:

“Terrorist organizations such as the PKK/YPG, ISIL, and FETÖ have “waged war” against Turkey and MİT has played a crucial role in the fight against these.”

The Turkish state once again resorted to arresting journalists under the guise of them being members of a terrorist organisation. Four journalists from Kurdish left-wing agencies were arrested in December.

On November 27, journalist Hacı Yusuf Topaloğlu was taken into custody in Turkey’s eastern province of Adıyaman. Topaloğlu was then brought to Adıyaman Courthouse on December 5 and arrested on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” based on the statement of an anonymous witness.

The police raided several homes in the provinces of Ankara, Antep, Urfa, Diyarbakır, Batman, Ağrı and Adıyaman. Topaloğlu, a reporter for the Dicle News Agency (DİHA), which was closed by a Statutory Decree, was one of several people taken into custody during these raids which included the detention of former MPs, executives of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), members of the Human Rights Association (İHD) and Health and Social Service Laborers Union (SES).

Speaking about these arrests, exiled Turkish journalist Kerim Balci said:

These arrests are part of the Turkish regime’s determination to keep the society and the global audience uninformed, or rather misinformed about the human rights situation in the country. Mesopotamia Agency and Dicle Haber Agency are two forth-running sources of information providing an alternative to the official narrative. Dicle Haber Agency is already closed down in Turkey by a State of Emergency Decree, and Mesopotamia Agency had to change its domain name 21 times in order to bypass the internet blockage imposed on them.

Two days later, on November 29 a further two journalists were taken into custody shortly after they left the Mezopotamya Agency (MA) office in Beyoğlu, İstanbul. Sadiye Eser and Sadık Topaloğlu, both Kurdish-Separatists, were then arrested on December 3 having been referred to the İstanbul 3rd Penal Judgeship of Peace by the prosecutor’s office without taking their depositions.

After the defendant’s and the attorney made their defense, the court ruled that Eser and Topaloğlu should be arrested on charge of “being members of a terrorist organization.”

On December 11, Kurdish-Left journalist Aziz Oruç was detained in Doğubayazıt, Ağrı and subsequently arrested having been declared a “terrorist” by the Ministry of Interior.

Like Topaloğlu, Oruç is a journalist for DİHA. He had then moved to Iraq, living there for the past three years due to the lawsuits filed against him in Turkey.

Leaving Iraq for Iran, hoping to reach Europe through Armenia, he was taken into custody at an Armenian border gate. After being subjected to police violence in custody in Armenia, Oruç was turned over to the soldiers of Iran.

Oruç was forced to cross the border to Turkey through the wire fence on the Turkish-Iranian border on December 11. He was taken into custody with HDP Doğubayazıt District Co-Chair Abdullah Ekelek, whom he asked for help, when they were about to leave the city on December 11.

Oruç previously recalled the ordeal, saying:

“On one night, they left me at the Turkey-Iran border surrounded by wire mesh. They wanted me to cross the wire mesh and illegally enter Turkey. Although I repeatedly tried to go back to Iran from the soil of Turkey and to enter Turkey through official ways, they didn’t let me do that.”

Oruç was referred to the Doğubayazıt Penal Judgeship of Peace after he deposed at the prosecutor’s office. The judgeship has ruled that Aziz Oruç shall be arrested on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization”. The journalist has been sent to Patnos Prison in Ağrı.

HDP’s Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu was also arrested on December 13 on the ground that they aided Aziz Oruç.

Turkey will be called to account in Geneva on the 28 January when the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting will consider the Universal Periodic review of Turkey. These continued attacks on Press Freedom – including the arrest and forced rendition of journalists – gives a clear indication that Turkey’s human rights record is still of major concern.

Turkey ranks 157th out of 180 in the RSF World Press Freedom Index.

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