Turkish police question journalist for a report on a tree being cut down

Turkish police have questioned a journalist for posting footage on social media of council workers in the Black Sea town of Rize cutting down a 100-year-old tree in the city centre, left-wing newspaper Evrensel reported.

“Rize municipality, which previously razed the 300-year-old Rize Central Mosque saying they needed space for a new avenue, is now cutting a century-old tree though it did not block the avenue,” Deniz Varlı said on Sunday, sharing the footage on Twitter.

The municipality responded to Varlı the same day on Twitter, saying the tree was cut down because it was rotten and the event was being used to discredit the council, which is run by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party. 

Pro-government media said the report about the tree and reactions on social media were a provocation aimed at harming the municipality ahead of local elections scheduled for March, adding that experts had advised the municipality to cut down the tree.

Varlı said on Wednesday he had been invited by the police to testify about his social media posts. Varlı left the police station two hours later and told Evrensel that he had been questioned about his social media posts criticising the government.

Ergün Demir, a reporter for Sözcü newspaper, was detained and later released on Monday for reporting about a Turkish father, who committed suicide because he could not afford to buy his son trousers for his school uniform.