Outrage as Turkey and pro-govt media refer to detained journalist as terrorist

The Turkish Interior Ministry and the country’s pro-government media outlets have labeled journalist Aziz Oruc who was recently detained in Turkey’s eastern Agri province as a terrorist.

The Interior Ministry on Wednesday announced Oruc’s detention by Turkish police in a written statement that read, “a terrorist was captured after entering Turkey from the Iranian border.”

The statement referring to Oruc as a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) added that he was detained in Agri’s Dogubayazit district along with the district’s head from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

“The security forces captured [terrorist] organization member Aziz Oruc in Agri while he was being led by Abdullah Ekelek, a district head of HDP in Dogubayazit, to a hideout,” the ministry elaborated.

Ankara accuses the pro-Kurdish HDP of having links to the outlawed PKK, an armed militant group of separatists who have been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey for over three decades.

Using the Turkish Interior Ministry’s statement as a source while covering Oruc’s detention, many of the country’s pro-government news outlets also referred to the journalist as a terrorist on Wednesday.

Among those media organs supporting the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are the state-run Anadolu Agency (AA), Yeni Safak, Takvim, and Sabah newspapers.

Ayse Acar Basaran, HDP’s Commission for Law and Human Rights spokesperson and Batman MP, argued in a written statement on Thursday that the pro-AKP media carries out a perception management operation to affect Turkish judiciary’s verdict against Oruc.

“Under these circumstances [of Turkey] where there’s no judicial independence… media perception serves as an order for the judges and prosecutors,” the lawmaker underlined.

Basaran also indicated that the press members in Turkey “who write only one word that bothers the government” are targeted, prosecuted, and labeled as terrorists.

“Turkey doesn’t need government mouthpieces, but journalists who tell the truth as it is, like Aziz Oruc. Operations of detention and arrest can neither silence journalists who run after the truth nor politicians who fight for democracy,” she further noted.

Referring to Oruc and Ekelek, the MP stressed that both of them must be released immediately since “neither journalism nor politics is a crime.”

Pro-Kurdish HDP MP’s Remziye Tosun and Leyla Guven also criticized the ministry’s labeling Oruc as a terrorist on social media and posted tweets using the hashtag #GazetecilikSuçDeğildir (journalism is not a crime).

“All news pieces of Aziz Oruc are available online. Those who declare him a terrorist and those who cover news using the same reference are rascals!” Kurdish journalist Amed Dicle also held forth in a tweet.

The Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), a media freedom and legal rights organization in Turkey, also expressed condemnation for the Ministry of Interior’s terrorist claim regarding Oruc.

“We condemn these unacceptable claims; Oruc is a journalist and #JournalismIsNotACrime,” the organization tweeted.

“You may find it strange since you don’t know what real journalism is, but Aziz Oruc is a journalist and journalism is not a crime,” addressing Yeni Safak, another one of Oruc’s colleagues, Serkan Altan, said.

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