Turkish activists cry foul for arrested journalism student

Several civil society groups denounced Turkish authorities on Monday for arresting a student who had publicly argued that "journalism is not a crime", news website Bianet reported.

Berivan Bila, a journalism student at Karadeniz Technical University in the Black Sea coastal city of Trabzon, wrote an article titled “Journalism Is Not a Crime” in July 2017, after several former staffers for the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet had been detained. Last week, a Turkish court called for her arrest on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Representatives of unions for public labourers and education and science workers gathered with Bila’s mother and writers from the news outlet Sendika.org in Trabzon, where she was detained, to issue a joint statement.

"The verdict of arrest has surprised us all," the statement said. “With the arrest of a journalism student for having expressed her opinions, we are going through a situation contrary to the legal norms. We do not accept that a young journalist was arrested due to her opinions and articles.”

The chair of Trabzon Community House, Gizem Pehlivan, said Bila struggled against all types of bans, censorship and arrest of journalists while the Turkish media had been monopolised and serving to the government.

"She was arrested because she fearlessly wrote about the truths and facts, expressed her opinions freely and said journalism is not a crime," Bianet quoted Pehlivan as saying.

Songül Bila, the student's mother, said her daughter was unlawfully arrested and emphasised that she had always chased after the truth.

In her column, which was ruled to be a crime, Bila spoke of the imprisoned journalists in Turkey, the Cumhuriyet trials and several media workers expelled by the decree laws under the state of emergency. She described the situation in Turkey as ''under dictatorship and pressures”.

Bila was sent to a prison in Trabzon and will stay behind bars until the next hearing. Several social media users, journalists and opposition MPs criticised her arrest on Twitter.

Journalist and former opposition deputy, Barış Yarkadaş, demanded Bila's release.


Turkey's main opposition deputy Veli Ağbaba also said Bila should be freed, adding "journalism is not a crime."

Erol Önderoğlu, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative, urged authorities to stop using the charges of "insulting the president" as a tool to control people.