Journalists, authors targeted in investigation launched against 57 individuals on account of social media posts critical of the Afrin operation
The Istanbul Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation into 57 individuals who shared critical comments in social media concerning the Turkish Military’s “Operation Olive Branch,” launched over the weekend on the Syrian town of Afrin.
At least 24 people, including journalists Nurcan Baysal and Ishak Karakaş, were taken into custody during police raids on January 22 as part of the investigations across Istanbul and Diyarbakır.
T24 columnist Nurcan Baysal was taken into custody in the early hours of January 22 during a midnight police raid on her home in Diyarbakır. The police broke the door of her apartment, Baysal’s lawyer Reyhan Baydemir told T24, adding that Baysal was in custody at the anti-terror department and that the grounds for her detention were her social media comments concerning Afrin. Baysal, one of the founders of the Diyarbakır Political and Social Research Institute (DISA), writes on the subjects of the Kurdish issue, development and poverty in various news outlets and periodicals.
Halkın Nabzı (The Public’s Pulse) weekly newspaper’s Editor in Chief İshak Karakaş was also taken into custody on January 22 during a midnight police raid at his home in Istanbul. According to news reports, the grounds for his detention was also his social media posts.
Also on January 22, police in Diyarbakır raided the home of journalist İsmail Eskin based on an arrest warrant against the former Dihaber reporter on account of his social media posts, the Mesopotamia News Agency reported. During the midnight raid, police questioned the relatives of Eskin, who was on a trip abroad. Police also searched his house for around an hour.
The Istanbul home of dissident writer Aziz Tunç, who has been on self-imposed exile for the past two years, was also raided by the police in the early hours of January 22. News reports said an arrest warrant had been issued on account of his posts about Afrin. During the Monday morning raid, police searched Tunç’s home for around 40 minutes and seized a book they found in the house about the victims of the deadly October 10, 2015 attack in Ankara, as well as some of Tunç’s personal notes and manuscripts.
The Istanbul Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said in a written statement on Monday concerning its investigation against 57 people that these individuals had shared posts “that constitute elements of the offenses ‘Insulting a public official,’ ‘Insulting the president,’ ‘Publicly degrading the Turkish Nation, the State of the Turkish Republic and its military,’ ‘Spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization,’ prescribed in Articles 125/3-a, 216-1, 199 and 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, and Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law.”
Although the exact number of the people taken into custody was unclear as of Monday evening, news reports said 30 people had been detained in Diyarbakır alone. The Interior Ministry said in a statement on Monday that 24 people have been detained on charges of “spreading terrorist propaganda via social media” regarding the Afrin operation.
Also on Monday, the Afrika newspaper of Northern Cyprus became the target of a mob attack following its headline in which it called the Afrin operation “Yet Another Occupation by Turkey.” The newspaper’s Editor in Chief Şener Levent told Bianet that a group of around 200 to 300 people gathered in front of the newspaper building and threw stones and broke the windows.
The President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani and Harlem Désir, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, condemned the attacks against the newspaper in messages they shared on January 22 on Twitter. “Intimidating journalists is unacceptable,” Tajani wrote, adding: “The European Parliament will always defend media freedom, the cornerstone of democracy.”
Désir wrote: “I condemn the attack vandalizing the offices of newspaper Afrika in the north of Cyprus. Media freedom must be protected and respected.”
The mob attack on the newspaper came on the heels of a public speech President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered the previous day in Turkey’s Bursa province, in which he called the newspaper’s headline a “dirty headline.”