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Jailed journalists in Turkey begin hunger strike in protest over PKK leader's isolation

The hunger strike coincides with World Press Freedom

JAILED journalists from the Mesopotamia News Agency in Turkey are on a protest hunger strike over the continued isolation of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, it was announced on World Press Freedom Day yesterday.

They are part of the growing campaign across Turkish prisons which has seen a reported 7,000 joining the hunger strike action in protest at the treatment of Mr Ocalan which they say amounts to torture.

At a press conference in the largely Kurdish city of Diyarbakir yesterday the Mesopotamia Women Journalists Platform announced that 14 women journalists had been jailed with 13 of the agency’s workers on hunger strike.

It was held jointly with the Diyarbakir branch of the Human Rights Association as the groups highlighted their four-month report assessing the state of press freedom in Turkey. 

Ayse Guney from Jin News explained that access to thousands of articles was blocked by the Turkish state with the basic principles of a free press overturned while “freedom of expression, work, self-expression and the independence of the judiciary were rendered ineffective,” particularly during the local election period.

The press is not able to do its job in bringing news to the public, she explained.

“While journalists are expected to uncover the unknown, even just to write the news nowadays takes great courage,” she said.

At least 142 journalists across Turkey were in prison on World Press Freedom Day.

The country leads the way as the biggest jailer of media workers in the world, with a third of the world’s total in its prisons.

Journalists from the Mesopotamia News Agency have faced particular pressure from the Turkish state, including Seda Taskin who faces court on May 15 on trumped-up terrorism charges,

Ms Taskin explained that her journalism was being criminalised with a court in Mus sentencing her to seven-and-a-half years in prison for aiding a terrorist organisation.

She was sentenced for sharing a tweet originally posted by another reporter and for sharing a post which included a photograph of a microphone belonging to the banned DIHA news agency.

“Even my own name ‘Seda’, which I have used since the day I was born, was deemed by prosecutors to be a code name,” she said.

“In a time where there is such a pressure on journalists we must all unite in the face of oppression and show solidarity.

“Whatever the decision will be, I love my profession very much and I will practice wherever I am,” she said defiantly.


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