Turkey must free journalists held for covering agent’s funeral, CPJ says

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a U.S.-based organisation promoting press freedom, called on Turkish authorities on Monday to release six journalists who were arrested for reports on the funeral of a Turkish intelligence agent killed in Libya.

Editor-in-chief for news outlet OdaTV, Barış Pehlivan, columnist for Yeniçağ newspaper, Murat Ağırel, and the managing editor of Yeni Yaşam newspaper, Ferhat Çelik, and its editor-in-chief, Aydın Keser, were arrested on March 8 for covering the funeral of the agent.

OdaTV news director Barış Terkoğlu and reporter Hülya Kılıç were arrested on the same charges last week after the news outlet showed footage of the funeral in the western province of Manisa.

"Turkish authorities should immediately release Barış Pehlivan, Murat Ağırel, Ferhat Çelik, and Aydın Keser, and all other journalists in custody for their reporting, and drop any charges against them," the CPJ said in a statement.

The journalists are accused of violating Turkey's intelligence law by exposing the identity of the agent and could face up to nine years in jail if convicted.

But the identity of the official had already been revealed by opposition Good Party member of parliament Ümit Özdağ at a press conference broadcast online two days before the media reports, OdaTV said. 

“Turkey’s frantic attempts to control the narrative about its intelligence activities by detaining and harassing journalists violate the public’s right to be informed and must stop,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia programme coordinator.