Journalist Merdan Yanardağ, editor-in-chief of Turkish broadcaster TELE1, was arrested on 27 June following a judicial investigation into his televised remarks about imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) demands his immediate release.
Yanardağ was charged with “praising crime and the criminal” as well as “propaganda for a terrorist organisation”, following his comments about Öcalan during a television programme broadcast on TELE1 on 20 June. During his speech, Yanardağ said, “Öcalan is Turkey’s longest serving political prisoner. If normal execution laws were applicable, he should in fact be released… The isolation imposed on Öcalan has no legal basis.”
After spending the night in police custody, Yanardağ was taken to Çağlayan court in Istanbul to be questioned by the prosecutor’s office. In accordance with the prosecutor’s request, the court remanded Yanardağ in custody for “propaganda” crime.
The chairman of the Turkish broadcasting regulator RTÜK, Ebubekir Şahin, also announced on 25 June that an investigation had been opened against the TELE1 channel over Yanardağ’s remarks, arguing Yanardağ “praised the terrorist leader”.
“We demand the immediate release of journalist Merdan Yanardağ, who was only doing his job by commenting on the state censorship of Abdullah Öcalan in Turkey,” said EFJ President Maja Sever. “Our colleague was absolutely right to express his doubts about this censorship. We fully share his feelings. His imprisonment is a totally disproportionate act of repression and intimidation. It is not only a violation of press freedom but also a serious attack on freedom of expression and the right of Turkish citizens to be informed.”