The undersigned media freedom, freedom of expression and human rights organisations strongly condemn the appalling attack on journalist Sinan Aygül that took place in Tatvan, a city in eastern Turkey, on 17 June. Two people were arrested the following day charged with ‘intentional injury with a weapon’.
While we welcome the swift arrests, we call upon the authorities to thoroughly investigate this crime and ensure that all those responsible, including others who may have been behind the attack, are held fully accountable.
On 17 June, Aygül, who is also the chairperson of the Bitlis Association of Journalists, wrote on Twitter that security guards employed by the mayor of Tatvan, Mehmet Emin Geylani, physically attacked him in the middle of the street. He said the security personnel arrived in a municipality-owned vehicle and were carrying firearms. As the guards assaulted Aygül, they issued a death threat, warning him against reporting information about the mayor. Aygül was hospitalised as a result of his injuries.
Two days before the assault, in a Twitter post, Aygül had raised allegations of irregularities in the public tender for property sales involving the Tatvan Municipality and its mayor, and called for its cancellation.
Aygül has been targeted many times for his critical reporting, and has been subjected to death threats and legal harassment. To date, 137 criminal investigations have been launched against him in connection with his journalism. On 19 January, 2023, Aygül was detained on accusations of insulting Vahit Kiler, a member of parliament from the ruling AKP party, for reporting on corruption allegations involving Kiler. Aygül was released the next day after an initial interrogation.
In February 2023, he was the first journalist to be charged under Turkey’s new ‘disinformation law’ passed by the Turkish parliament last October. The court sentenced him to 10 months in prison, a verdict that Aygül is now appealing in the Supreme Court after his initial appeal was turned down by a regional Court of Appeal.
We stand in solidarity with Aygül and all other journalists who face threats and attacks for their reporting. The authorities must ensure that journalists are able to do their jobs freely and safely, and that the perpetrators, including others who may have been behind the attack, are brought to justice.
The International Federation of Journalists (IPI) submitted an alert on the Council of Europe Safety of Journalists Platform on this incident.
Amnesty International Turkey
Ankara Journalists Society
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS)
Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
Platform for Independent Journalism (P24)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Turkish Litigation Support Project (TLSP)
Turkish Press, Broadcasting and Printer Worker’s Union (Disk-Basın İş)
This statement was coordinated by IPI as part of its #FreeTurkeyJournalists campaign and as a member of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism that tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.