The editor-in-chief of the Russian news agency Sputnik Türkiye was detained and released a day after the outlet’s three employees were harassed in their homes and then detained when they went to the police station to make a complaint on March 1.
Following the Syrian army’s offensive on a Turkish convoy in Idlib that killed over 30 soldiers, social and governmental pressure on the Turkey-based Russian news outlet has been rising.
The series of events started with an attack on the homes of three employees Feb. 29.
The homes of the three Sputnik Türkiye employees were approached by groups of 15 to 20 people around 10.30 p.m. on Feb. 29.
The groups addressed the journalists with their first and last names and asked them if they had conducted “propaganda against the martyrs,” referring to the soldiers who died in the Idlib attack of Feb. 27.
The groups also chanted a nationalistic slogan meaning “Martyrs don’t die, the motherland can’t be divided,” at the journalists’ homes before leaving.
“The homes (!) of three of our Ankara employees were raided by unknown persons. They called them traitors for working for Russians,” Editor-in-chief of Sputnik and Russia Today Margarita Simonyan tweeted.
Simonyan also noted that she would very much like to know how these people learned the home addresses of these “rather discreet employees.”
The employees who went to report the assaults to Ankara police were detained.
On March 1, Sputnik Türkiye’s Editor-in-Chief Mahir Boztepe was also detained during a raid on the outlet’s Istanbul office, according to Simonyan.
The Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation into the editor-in-chief based on articles 301 and 302 of the Turkish Penal Code.
The charges were “insulting the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, and the institutions of government” and were “disrupting the unity of government and nation.”
“What is this, Turkey???” Simonyan tweeted, along with the information at 2.54 p.m.
Boztepe was released after a phone call between the foreign ministers of the two countries.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke by phone with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu later on March 1 and called for the situation with the Sputnik journalist to be resolved quickly.
“What appears to have been a coordinated attack came at a time of heightened tensions in Idlib between Syria and Turkey,” Sputnik said on its website.
The Journalists’ Union of Turkey said the intimidation of reporters and their detention were unacceptable.
“Journalists cannot be made to pay for the tension between states,” the union said on Twitter.
On March 1, Sputnik International published a story titled “The ‘Stolen Province’: Why Turkey Was Given A Corner Of Syria By France 80 Years Ago,” which was Turkey’s southern province of Hatay that was disputed between Ankara and Damascus in the 1930s.
Hatay joined Turkey in 1939 following a referendum.