Turkey must act quickly to protect journalists after another was killed

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The editor of Ses Kocaeli site, 60-year-old Arslan was shot dead on February 19 in his office in Izmit, a town 100 km east of Istanbul, the capital of Kocaeli province. Before the murder of a radio presenter in March 2021, no journalist had been murdered in Turkey since 2009.

Police have arrested a 21-year-old youth, Ramazan Özkan, on suspicion of being hired to kill Arslan. They also arrested nine other suspects, including Ersin Kurt, a lawyer who is said to have offered Özkan money to carry out the murder.

“This murder comes as no surprise to anyone as Güngör Arslan kept receiving threatening letters without any response from the authorities who failed in their duty to protect,” said Erol Onderoğlu, RSF representative in Turkey.

“The swift arrest of 10 suspects, including the alleged instigators, suggests there may be an effective trial. We demand that both the perpetrators and the instigators of this unacceptable crime be severely punished and we will continue to monitor this case closely. The government must act quickly so that openly threatened journalists can be given the protection they need and work safely.”

Aslan had recently published a series of articles accusing Kurt of violating the Lawyers’ Practice Act by accepting a municipal contract from Izmit. Kurt is close to the MHP, a nationalist party allied to President Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). Aslan had repeatedly said in social media posts that he felt threatened.

Disturbing spiral of violence

Verbal attacks and political hostility towards outspoken journalists have steadily increased in Turkey since the 2019 local elections, aggravating the prevailing climate of impunity and encouraging those suspected of links to corruption to attack local reporters covering corruption.

Constant threats and pressure from high-ranking figures on the judicial system to arrest troublesome journalists has dragged the country into a disturbing spiral of violence that resonates throughout Turkish society. Local journalists, who often live in the same neighborhood as the people they investigate, are easy targets and those who have received threats are not protected.

The journalist murdered in March 2021 was Hazım Özsu46, the presenter of a show Radio Frame FMin Bursa, a city 150 km south of Istanbul. He was gunned down by one of his listeners who disapproved of his comments about “sacred values.” His alleged killer, Halil Nalcaci, was arrested six days later.

Before Özsu was the youngest former media murder victim Cihan Hayirsevenerthe news director of the local television station Marmara TV and editor of the newspaper Güney Maramara Yasamwho was shot dead three times while walking down a street in Bandırma, a town 115 km west of Bursa, in December 2009. The perpetrators and instigators of his murder were sentenced to long prison terms.

Many of the 40 cases of journalists murdered or missing since the 1990s have gone unpunished, including about 20 cases reported in south-eastern Anatolia between 1990 and 1996, at the height of clashes between the Turkish army and the Kurdish rebels Labor movement in Kurdistan. party (PKK).

Turkey is ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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