Journalists reporting earthquake tragedy on ground under attack by authorities

Authorities have been hindering journalists who are trying to report the crisis in the ten provinces affected by the two major earthquakes in southeastern Turkey. At least four journalists have been so far detained by the security forces, according to reporting by the non-profit group MLSA. 

Duvar English 

From the first day onwards, dozens of journalists from Turkey and around the world have been covering the living conditions and rescue operations in the provinces hit by two major earthquakes on Feb. 6. Nonetheless, police forces and gendarme have been blocking them from reporting the detrimental living conditions that the survivors face and the frustration among them due to the insufficiency of the rescue operations in some areas, according to reporting by the non-profit Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA). 

At least four journalists in the earthquake zone were detained between Feb. 6-9. They were all later released from police custody.  

Volkan Pekal, a journalist for the Evrensel daily from Adana, was detained on Feb. 7 on the grounds of “recording without authorization” the Adana City Hospital while recording inside the Adana City Hospital.

Mahmut Altıntaş of the Mesopotamia Agency and Sema Çağlak of the Jin News Agency were detained in the Şanlıurfa province on Feb. 8 on the grounds that they lacked formal press credentials from the Presidency's Directorate of Communications. Mehmet Gülaş was detained in Diyarbakır on the grounds of "inciting the people to hostility."

The government requires that all Turkish journalists have turquoise press cards and all international journalists obtain accreditation from the local offices of the Presidency’s Directorate of Communications in order to report from the area, the MLSA said. 

In Diyarbakır, several journalists reported that they have been blocked from doing their jobs by the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) officials because they do not have “authorization.”

Earlier this week, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched a criminal investigation against journalists Merdan Yanardağ and Enver Aysever for criticizing the Islamist groups' shouting slogans while the search and rescue teams demanded silence, according to reporting by online news outlet Yeşil Gazete.

On the other hand, the security forces blocked several journalists from conducting interviews. Gendarmerie tried to stop Halk TV reporter Fırat Fıstk from reporting 6-7 times in only one hour on Feb. 9 in Hatay province, another province detrimentally affected by the quakes.

A police officer in Kahrmanmaraş interrupted journalist Mir Ali Koçer's interview with a resident who bemoaned the lack of cooperation in search and rescue operations. The police officer in question yelled, "The State is here."

A police officer struck Ferit Demir, a journalist from Halk TV, on Feb. 10 in Malatya. Demir said the policeman targeted him and kicked him when he and his cameraperson were trying to document a search and rescue operation.

Earlier this week, the General Directorate of Security (EGM) announced that 31 people were detained, and nine of them were arrested over allegedly sharing “provocative” social media posts about the two devastating quakes that shook the southeastern region of the country. Twitter was restricted in Turkey for about nine hours following severe criticisms of the government’s response to the earthquakes on Feb. 8.

On Feb. 9, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Erdoğan implied that the new state of emergency would help the state to intervene against people criticizing the government's response to the earthquake victims. Erdoğan said that there are people “turning the process into a political abuse” and that the state of emergency "will give the state the opportunity to intervene against those abusing the process."