A Turkish court has ruled for the arrest of one of five journalists detained on Tuesday on allegations of targeting public officials while four have been released on judicial probation, the Law and Media Studies Association (MLSA) announced.
Mezopotamya correspondent Delal Akyüz was detained in İzmir, while another Mezopotamya correspondent, Fırat Can Arslan, and T24 news website editor Sibel Yükler were taken into custody in the capital Ankara following police raids on their homes. Bianet editor Evrim Kepenek was detained in İstanbul and journalist Evrim Deniz in Diyarbakır.
The journalists were detained due to their social media posts about a judge-prosecutor couple who were involved in the investigation and prosecution of Kurdish journalists on charges of “targeting public officials involved in the fight against terrorism.”
Arslan was arrested after appearing in a court later on Tuesday. In a statement to the court, he denied the accusations and said he just posted a Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) decree and did not make any comment about it.
He requested release pending trial or on judicial probation, but the court ruled to arrest him.
Akyüz, Yükler, Deniz and Kepenek have been released on judicial probation, which includes a travel ban and regularly checking in at a police station.
The journalists were detained as part of an investigation launched by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The journalists were taken into custody for retweeting a news article about the replacement of prosecutor Mehmet Karababan and his wife, judge Seda Karababan, and are accused of “targeting public officials involved in the fight against terrorism.”
The Karababan couple came to public attention during the trial of 15 Kurdish journalists who appeared in court earlier this month after more than a year in pretrial detention on charges of terrorist organization membership.
During a hearing on July 11, the journalists’ lawyers demanded the recusal of judge Karababan, who was on the panel of judges hearing their trial, because it was her husband, prosecutor Mehmet Karababan, who indicted the journalists.
The court denied the lawyers’ request, but the couple was among more than 3,000 member of the judiciary who were reassigned on July 18 by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The 15 Kurdish journalists were released from pretrial detention.
The journalists detained on Tuesday had shared some posts and retweets on social media about the reassignment of the Karababan couple, which prompted prosecutors to initiate an investigation into them.
Deniz told MLSA that she and her colleagues reported on something that was available in open sources, on the HSK website and in the Official Gazette, and what they did was purely journalistic activity.
She said her colleague Arslan was arrested merely because of engaging in journalism and that the journalists’ detention due to a baseless accusation shows the poor situation of freedom of the press in Turkey.
It is common for journalists in Turkey, which has a poor record on freedom of the press, to face threats, physical attacks and legal harassment due to their work.
Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, eliminating media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure, especially after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 90 percent of the national media in Turkey, which was ranked 165th among 180 countries in the RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, is owned by pro-government businessmen and toe the official line.