CPJ: Turkish Journalists Detained over Tweet, One Still in Custody

Published: 31 July 2023

Freedom of SpeechTurkey is ranked 165th on the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in 2023. (Photo: Narih Lee, Flickr, License)

By Erika Di Benedetto

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Turkish authorities to release journalist Fırat Can Arslan, who, along with four others, was detained over a tweet about the reassignments of a judge and a prosecutor who are married to each other and are involved in an ongoing trial of journalists.

Arslan remains in custody, while the other four journalists were released immediately after their detention on Tuesday.

According to the Turkish daily news Evrensel, the journalists are accused of "disclosing, publishing, and targeting a public official on anti-terror duties."

Fırat Can Arslan, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, tweeted on July 18 about the couple involved in the court case that is taking place in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey.

The four other journalists had retweeted Arslan’s post, including Delal Akyüz, a Mezopotamya reporter; Sibel Yükler, an editor for independent news website T24; Evrim Kepenek, an editor for independent news website Bianet; and freelance journalist Evrim Deniz.

All of them now face judicial control and have been subjected to travel bans.

"Posting news on the internet or retweeting them cannot be a crime," stated CPJ's Turkey representative, Özgür Öğret.

The mass court case related to the tweet involves seventeen Kurdish journalists and media workers who work for local production companies ARİ, PEL, and PİYA. They are accused of belonging to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), said CPJ.

According to the indictment, they were producing Kurdish-focused shows and content that the government claimed were propaganda for the PKK. During the first hearing of their trial in Diyarbakir earlier in July 2023, it was revealed that the prosecutor who drafted the indictment and one of the three judges presiding over the case were married.

According to CPJ's 2022 prison census, Turkey was ranked as the fourth-worst country in the world when it comes to imprisoning journalists, with 40 currently incarcerated. More than half of those detained are Kurds.