Turkey detains journalists over earthquake reporting
Freelance journalist Mir Ali Kocer is one of at least four Turkish journalists being investigated for reporting or commenting on the recent deadly earthquakes that have killed over 50,000 people in the country and neighbouring Syria.
Press freedom groups say scores of more journalists have been detained, harassed, or prevented from reporting, but Turkish authorities haven’t yet shared any comments on the detentions.
On February 6, the night of the earthquake, Kocer – who contributes to pro-opposition news sites such as Duvar – was 200 miles from the epicentre. He quickly grabbed his camera and microphone and drove down to the city of Gaziantep to interview survivors.
He shared stories of survivors as well as rescue personnel on social media, and is currently investigated on suspicion of proliferating “fake news” and might be sentenced to up to three years in jail.
The freelance journalist was told at the police station that he was being investigated under a recently introduced disinformation law. Turkey’s new law, adopted last October, made the public spreading of disinformation illegal and offered the state broader powers to control social media and news sites.
Some of the quake survivors told Kocer they received no aid for days. Pro-opposition media outlets were also seen reporting on similar complaints.
The journalist insists he was meticulous in his work and interviewed all sides, and that he conducted thorough research and analysis before sharing information. Even Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has urged authorities to drop the investigation against Kocer, calling it “absurd”.
The number of other journalists being investigated for earthquake reports is still unclear.
The police on Tuesday said they detained 134 individuals over “provocative posts” and arrested 25 of them. Some of those detained may well have been spreading harmful disinformation.
But critics are of the opinion that the clampdown has gone far beyond those spreading falsehoods, with cyber rights expert Yaman Akdeniz saying “the government is trying to suppress information coming from the quake zone.”