Turkey‘s last remaining Kurdish-language newspaper, based in Azadiya Welat, is closing its print edition and moving all content online after its publishing house refused to continue printing amid fear of government reprisals.
Turkey Issues Arrest Orders for 70 Dissident Military Officers
The decision comes after the Turkish government raided the offices of the Ozgurluk Demokrasi newspaper and its Gun Printing House in the early hours of March 28, appointing government trustees to take over the publications and refusing to print the new edition of the Welat daily.
Another printing house in Adana also refused to continue printing the Kurdish daily, without offering further explanation.
"Our newspaper isn’t printed due to fear: ‘It’s beyond us,’ said everyone we talked to; the owner of the printing house said they faced threats and didn’t print our newspaper," Zeynel Abidin Bulut, director of the newspaper, told the Turkish Journalists’ Union (TGS) in Diyarbakir.
Turkey is known for restrictions on freedom of speech and has intensified crackdowns since the 2016 coup attempt, which many claim the government is using as an excuse to get rid of any opposition forces.
The Dogan Media Group, which had previously enjoyed a degree of independence from the government and printed critical publications, was recently absorbed by the pro-government Demiroren Group. This means that most of the mainstream media is now in the hands of the government.
"All newspapers and channels of the Dogan Group comprising of mainstream media in Turkey were sold to the Demiroren Group. This sale is a handover operation controlled by the ruling power," said Mahmut Oral, a TGS representative, who also called for jailed journalists to be released.
Also in attendance at the press conference were The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Diyarbakir MP Sibel Yigitalp; co-chair of the HDP Diyarbakır organization; spokesperson of the Free Journalists Initiative (OGİ), representatives of NGOs and journalists working in the region.
One of the Dogan Group’s most widely circulated newspapers, the Hurriyet, had been the target of mob attacks claiming the publication was spreading propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is an insurgent group fighting for the rights of Kurdish people and culture, but Turkey considers it a terrorist organization.
"We will never give up publishing in our native language; we will continue in a more broad and influential way on the internet," said Bulut.
Shortly after announcing the end of its printed version, Welat was published on the newspaper’s Twitter account.
The same newspaper has suffered many setbacks in Turkey as the target of temporal bans, raids, arrests and ongoing harassment by the government and ultra-nationalist groups.
It restarted the printed publication in late August 2017, to fill the gap left by Rojeva Medya when it was prohibited by the government.
Turkey has one of the world’s worst records for freedom of speech, with the government often citing ambiguos reasons such as ‘terrorist propaganda’ to silence critical voices in the country.
Restrictions include temporary bannings of social networks, censorship of social media accounts, raids of media organizations and arrests of journalists.
Since the coup attempt of 2016, 231 journalists have been jailed for allegedly supporting terrorist activities. Some have already been released, but about 140 other journalists still face arrest warrants.