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Turkey sends journalist working for pro-Alevi media outlet to prison

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A journalist in southern Turkey was sent to prison on Tuesday evening after police raided his house when the top appeals court upheld a prison sentence handed down to him in 2017, the pro-Alevi news website Pir Haber (PIRHA) reported.

PIRHA Mersin reporter Diren Keser was taken to Tarsus Prison to serve a 21-month sentence he was handed down in 2017 due to some of his news reports and social media posts that were critical of the government.

Keser’s lawyer, Sebahat Gençtarih, told PIRHA that the way his client was detained, with police officers raiding his house, was not legal since people must be notified in advance of their arrest when their sentence is less than five years.

Members of the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK) press unit condemned the arrest of Keser, a member of the union, staging a protest in Mersin on Wednesday.

Another PIRHA reporter in Mersin, Fatoş Sarıkaya, who was among the protestors, said Keser is being punished due to his journalistic activities.

She said Keser is a journalist who has raised his voice against injustice and fought for the public’s right to information, adding that freedom of expression is one of the fundamental rights in a democratic society.

“Free media will not be silenced,” she said.

Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

PIRHA was established by a group of Alevi journalists to be a voice of the Turkey’s Alevi community in early 2017 when the TV10 station, belonging to the Alevi community, was closed down by a government decree following the coup attempt in 2016.

Alevis, who are estimated to account for 10 percent of Turkey’s population of around 85 million, are the second-largest Islamic sect in Turkey, with Sunni Hanafi Islam the largest. They have been fighting for years for the official recognition of their faith.

Earlier this week three other journalists, Arif Aslan, Oktay Candemir and Lokman Gezgin, working for pro-Kurdish outlets, were detained  in the eastern province of Van following raids on their houses. They are still in pretrial detention.

Turkey is ranked 165th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

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