BREAKING NEWS

Turkey jails 16 Kurdish journalists over propaganda charges

A Turkish court imprisoned pending trial 16 Kurdish journalists and media workers who were arrested after being detained last week accused of spreading terrorist propaganda, the Media and Law Studies Association and local media said on Thursday.

They had been kept in custody for eight days in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir without being formally accused, with prosecutors twice requesting an extension, they reported.

Five other journalists that were detained on June 8 were not imprisoned, according to Demiroren and other Turkish media.

Turkey has jailed more reporters than most other countries over the last decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and several media groups had condemned last week's detentions as "ruthless".

Among those detained were Serdar Altan, co-head of the Dicle Firat Journalists' Association, Jin News head Safiye Alagas, and Mezopotamya news agency editor Aziz Oruc.

On June 8, police in mainly-Kurdish Diyarbakir detained the 21 journalists on a charge of making propaganda for a terrorist organization over the preparation of television shows broadcast from Belgium and Britain, the Demiroren news agency reported.

Demiroren quoted police sources as saying they were investigating the "press committee" of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PPK) group. The court in Diyarbakir declined to comment.

On Monday, 837 journalists and 62 media organisations issued a statement supporting their detained colleagues and condeming the detention after police raids as "a blow to press freedom".

It called on the Turkish opposition - which it said makes "claims about law, justice, equality, freedom and democracy" - to stand in solidarity with them. It also called on the judiciary "not to become an instrument of the government's unlawfulness and tyranny".

President Tayyip Erdogan's government says the courts are independent.

Turkey ranks a low 149 out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders's (RSF) World Press Freedom Index, which describes it as a country in which "all possible means are used to undermine critics".

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