In a move that has become standard procedure for critics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, counterterrorism units raided the Ankara homes of Hayri Demir and Sibel Hurtas, two correspondents from German daily Tageszeitung, and later took the reporters into custody for their critical coverage of Erdogan’s major military operation against the Syrian Kurdish city of Afrin.
Demir and Hurtas are accused of failing to abide by strict guidelines laid out by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Sunday for covering the battle for Afrin.
The two reporters are believed to have gone around Erdogan’s censors and posted information on social media that contradicted the government’s official press releases and provided a platform for opposition politicians who are critical of the ongoing offensive. Neither Demir or Hurtas have been formally charged, but they remain in custody on charges of “inciting violence,” Germany’s international public broadcaster DW reported.
The arrests of Demir and Hurtas appear to be part of a new crackdown on the independent media in Turkey. Dozens of journalists covering the Afrin mission were arrested on Monday and Tuesday for their independent coverage of the incursion. Opposition reporter Ugar Guc told DW “More than 150 journalists are in jail in Turkey…prosecuted because of the news they made. If you say on Twitter you are against this war — you might be arrested, as well.”
In 2017, Turkey held more reporters in prison than any other country in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Under Erdogan, critical independent media outlets have come under constant attack. Dozens of correspondents have been put behind bars for reasons ranging from “inciting terrorism” to “insulting the Turkish nation”.