Human Rights Watch condemns Turkey’s crackdown on Kurds and opposition media

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People holding “Free Media Can Not Be Silenced” signs staged a protest in Brussels to denounce the violation of freedom of the press in Turkey. File photo: Cihan

ARA News

Erbil – Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday reprimanded the Turkish government for its crackdown on independent media and Kurdish communities. The rights advocacy organization noted that the detention of journalists from Cumhuriyet newspaper, the closure of the remaining Kurdish-language media and the jailing of elected mayors in the southeastern Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, had all occurred in the span of two days.

On Monday, more than 11 journalists from Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper were arrested, and there are warrants out for several more. Istanbul’s public prosecutor alleges that the newspaper has “committed crimes on behalf of” both the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and what the government refers to as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization.

“Targeting one of Turkey’s last independent opposition newspapers with ludicrous charges shows the depths of the Turkish government and president’s crackdown,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey director at Human Rights Watch. “Over 160 media outlets have been closed down since the failed coup, and there are few critical voices that have not been ruthlessly silenced.”

The crackdown on the Cumhuriyet newspaper caps a weekend in which the government has sought to silence its opponents – both real and imaginary.

On October 29, Turkey ordered 15 mostly-Kurdish media outlets to shut down, including the Dicle News Agency, the Azadiya Welat daily and the Evrensel Kültür journal. On October 30, the Diyarbakir court ordered the pretrial detention of Diyarbakir’s two elected co-mayors pending an investigation into their “membership in an armed organization.”

“The decision denies thousands of Kurdish voters their right to local political representation. The co-mayors, Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı, will be replaced with government-approved trustees who will run the municipality in their place,” HRW said.

“The jailing of Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı without credible evidence of criminal wrongdoing is the most dramatic evidence to date of the government’s willingness to deny the people of southeastern Turkey the right to democratically-elected political representatives,” Sinclair-Webb said. “Jailing elected mayors and the assault on independent media seriously call into question whether Turkey’s political leaders have any regard for basic democratic principles.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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