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Turkey's journalists call for support as state extends five reporters' detention periods

JOURNALISTS in Turkey have called for international support and solidarity with five reporters who remain behind bars after their detention period was extended today. 

Mesopotamia News Agency correspondents Ahmet Kanbal and Mehmet Sah Oruc, Jinnews correspondent Rojda Aydin and journalists Nurcan Yalcin and Halime Parlak were taken into custody while covering demonstrations in Mardin against the sacking of People’s Democratic Party (HDP) mayors.

They are reported to have been “battered” during their detention, with a number subjected to humiliating strip searches. Prosecutors are seeking to criminalise their journalism by using their work as evidence against them.

They are charged with unspecified terrorism offences – the catch-all term used by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to smear all those who oppose or criticise his authoritarian regime.

The journalists were covering protests that have swept Turkey since the launch of a political coup against the HDP earlier this week. 

Largely Kurdish areas have been targeted, with the removal of elected mayors in Van, Diyarbakir and Mardin provinces and their replacement with government-appointed trustees.

Protesters have faced a violent response from the authorities and at least 500 have been dragged into custody. 

The Kurdistan Communities Union warned that the move was part of a “genocide” against Kurds being waged by Turkey’s “fascist” government.

The Diyarbakir branch of the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) has demanded the immediate release of the detained media workers. 

TGS spokesman Mahmut Oral warned that journalists are always the first to come under attack by the government.

Turkey has jailed more journalists than any other country, a third of the world’s total.

“As always, we condemn this attack on journalists’ freedom to spread the news and the right of the community to hear it. We demand the immediate release of our friends,” Mr Oral said.

Free Journalists Initiative spokesman Hakki Boltan told the Star that international solidarity is badly needed, given that a free media is vital for the development of a democratic Turkey.

“Ending the opposition media is the main objective of the AKP [Justice and Development Party] government, “ he said.

“They want to destroy Kurdish media the most. It is the most influential and if the AKP government ends Kurdish media, it will be easier for it to bring about the end of democracy.”

Mr Boltan added: “Kurdish media is very important for Turkey. It is Kurdish media that illuminates the dark side of Turkey. We need urgent support from the international press.”

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