Mar 30 2018

17 press freedom groups condemn seizure of Kurdish paper

Seventeen press freedom groups have released a joint statement condemning the Turkish authorities’ seizure of a pro-Kurdish newspaper and the detention of its staff.

Turkish authorities took control of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi on Wednesday following a police raid on the paper’s offices in Istanbul. According to the statement condemning the takeover, published in Reporters Without Borders website, the paper was seized due to its critical coverage of Turkey’s military operation in Afrin.

Özgürlükçü Demokrasi was Istanbul’s last remaining Kurdish daily newspaper and one of the last independent sources of Kurdish news in Turkey, following the closure of other Turkish media outlets, such as Azadiya Welat, IMC TV and Hayatın Sesi in 2016.

Following the paper’s seizure Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International said, “The Turkish authorities must halt their sustained repression of Kurdish culture and language. We are highly alarmed by the onslaught on Kurdish and pro-Kurdish media outlets and journalists that has intensified dramatically since the crackdown on freedom of expression since the attempted coup of July 2016, and now reached a new low point with this takeover of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi.”

International Press Institute (IPI)’s Turkey Advocacy Coordinator Caroline Stockford condemned the failure of the European Union to take a stronger stance against Turkey’s repression of the media at last week’s Varna summit, and also said, “IPI strongly condemns yesterday’s raid and the government’s tactic of shutting down Özgürlükçü Demokrasi in an apparently illegal manner in order to silence dissenting voices in the run-up to the presidential elections."

The statement reiterated the right of Turks to access information allowing them to form a balanced opinion and called on Turkish authorities to respect freedom of expression, to end its press crackdown and to release detained workers at Özgürlükçü Demokrasi.

The statement also called on European governments to make statements requesting that Turkey respect and maintain press freedom.