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Turkey: Violence against journalists continues as Occupy Gezi police attacks remain unpunished

Riot police clash with demonstrators after they used tear gas and pressurized water to rout a peaceful demonstration by hundreds of people staging a sit-in to prevent the uprooting of trees at an Istanbul park, 31 May 2013.
Riot police clash with demonstrators after they used tear gas and pressurized water to rout a peaceful demonstration by hundreds of people staging a sit-in to prevent the uprooting of trees at an Istanbul park, 31 May 2013.

AP Photo

New demonstrations are resulting in renewed police violence against journalists, which has been encouraged by the fact that the approximately 150 attacks on journalists during last year's “Occupy Gezi” protest movement remain unpunished.

Reporters Without Borders condemns these abuses and reiterates the importance of bringing those responsible for each of these attacks to justice.

“Occupy Gezi” police attacks on journalists go unpunished

The Istanbul prosecutor's office announced on 23 December that it was dismissing the “abuse of authority” judicial proceedings that victims of police violence had brought against Istanbul mayor Kadir Topbas, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç and interior minister Muammer Güler.

Deputy prosecutor A. Cengiz Haciosmanoglu cited the alleged lack of seriousness of the accusations and lack of evidence as grounds for the dismissals.

The 12 plaintiffs included three journalists: Ahmet Sik of the Habervesaire website, Onur Erdem, a reporter for the left-wing daily BirGün, and Ender Ergün, a columnist with the left-wing monthly Express.

Sik complained about the teargas grenade that was fired at him on 12 June, hitting him on the head. Only his helmet spared him a second concussion less than two weeks after being seriously injured in the same manner. Erdem suffered from the inhalation of teargas employed abusively by the police. Ergün was hospitalized with serious injuries cause by a rubber bullet and blows with a knife.

In mid-September, the police general directorate announced an administrative investigation into 132 riot police officers and 32 police units chiefs. It appeared to cover all the complaints filed by journalists and demonstrators who had been the victims of police violence. But so far nothing has come of this investigation.

New demonstrations, new police violence

New anti-government demonstrations in connection with a major corruption scandal in late December saw more police violence. A dozen journalists were injured by police while covering the protests. The Turkish Journalists' Union (TGS), which said journalists' equipment was also destroyed, has demanded a judicial investigation.

On the night of 27 December in the Beyoglu neighbourhood of Istanbul, Elif Ince, a reporter for the Radikal daily newspaper, freelance journalist Berna Sahin, CNN International reporter Mohammet Jamhoom and his cameraman, and a CNN Türk reporter were all hit by rubber bullets fired by the police.

Isminaz Ergün, a reporter for the ETHA alternative news agency, was one of several journalists who had water cannon trained on them by police in riot trucks. His colleague, Yildiz Tar, was injured. According to the TGS, police repeatedly kicked Vice News UK photographer Deniz Agah and beat freelance reporter Savash Porgham with their batons.

IMC television reporter Michelle Demishevich was throttled by a police officer, who threatened to kill her. Yusuf Durdu Emre, a reporter for the Aydinlik daily newspaper, and Safak Inan, the editor of the Seç Haber news website, were briefly detained.

A week before that, two journalists – BirGün reporter Elçin Yildiral and Songül Araç, a reporter for the far-left newspaper Özgür Gelecek – were injured by police while covering a 22 December demonstration in the Kadiköy district of Istanbul. A teargas canister hit Yildiral in the arm, while Araç was hospitalized with cuts to his eye caused by a rubber bullet that shattered his glasses.

In Ankara, it was demonstrators who attacked Rauf Maltas, a reporter for the government news agency Anatolia, on 28 December. Believing him to be a plainclothes policeman, they beat him with sticks although he identified himself as a journalist. His camera and mobile phone were also damaged.

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