Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had earlier warned those reporting on the devastating earthquake to refrain from “fake news” and said that those “causing social chaos” would be prosecuted.
One freelance journalist, Mir Ali Kocer who is now under investigation by the authorities has claimed that he “did not share information without thorough research and analysis”.
Reporters Without Borders [RSF] has called the investigation against Mr Kocer “absurd”.
A media advocacy group, the Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ] has claimed that at least three more journalists are facing criminal charges for reporting or commenting on the earthquake and the humongous toll it took.
Merdan Yanardag and Enver Aysever criticised the government’s rescue efforts in the days following the earthquake. They have both been detained by authorities now, according to reports.
The journalists could face up to three years in prison.
A few days ago, police prevented journalist Sibel Tekin and her lawyer from holding a press conference in front of the courthouse where the first hearing against Ms Tekin was held. At least five women journalists were obstructed, threatened, and followed by police.
Press freedom groups have claimed that dozens have been detained, harassed or prevented from reporting.
Meanwhile in #Turkey, when #womenjournalists are sent to court journalists are discouraged from covering the hearing. I’ve been to many of these myself. Especially in the absence of Foriegn media or advocacy groups on location, we often see #police aggression against the #press. https://t.co/mMyjKYwMml
— Kiran Nazish (@kirannazish) February 24, 2023
Critics of the government, however, claim that the crackdown on free speech has gone too far. “The government is trying to suppress information coming from the quake zone,” cyber rights expert Yaman Akdeniz who teaches at the Istanbul Bilgi University was quoted as saying by BBC.
More than 160,000 buildings, containing 520,000 apartments, collapsed or were severely damaged as a result of earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people across Turkey and Syria and left millions homeless in cold winter weather.
Mr Erdogan has also pledged to rebuild housing within one year.