Journalist Nurcan Baysal under investigation over articles, posts on pandemic

Turkish authorities have launched an investigation into Kurdish journalist Nurcan Baysal for her coverage of Turkey’s measures against the coronavirus in the country’s Kurdish-majority southeast.

Baysal is facing charges of inciting hatred and enmity in the public over tweets and articles on the pandemic, including an article titled “Routine life goes on in Diyarbakır despite coronavirus” penned for Ahval.  Ten tweets calling for the release of imprisoned politicians and human rights defenders are also part of the investigation.

“I was told that I would normally be detained, but I wasn’t, because of the virus,” Baysal told Ahval. Instead, the journalist will face a prosecutor directly on Tuesday.

“As a human rights defender, journalist and citizen of the Turkish Republic, I exercised my right to inform the people and the institutions about precautions against coronavirus in my city. This is a Constitutional right and right protected by UN Charter,” Baysal said in a tweet.

Baysal’s article on the coronavirus pandemic in her hometown Diyarbakır, the biggest predominantly Kurdish province in Turkey, included testimony from a prisoner’s wife, in which she said the overcrowded prisons lacked basic sanitation measures such as soap or hot water.

“I am from (Diyarbakır), I’m writing about the human rights violations from here. I think this is the problem,” Baysal said in a podcast with Ahval. “And because I speak loudly. They want me to shut up.”

The Ahval contributor is not alone in her concern for prisons and Kurdish-majority provinces.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers Faruk Gergerlioğlu and Remziye Tosun are also facing investigations for bringing to light the possible presence of COVID-19 in prisons and calling on the public to take serious precautions, respectively.