Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Journalist detained in Diyarbakır asked about interviewee's comments

Journalist detained in Diyarbakır asked about interviewee's comments


Reporter Mehmet Güleş, who was detained as he was interviewing a search-and-rescue volunteer in quake-hit Diyarbakır, was accused of “spreading false information” under the "disinformation" law


Mezopotamya News Agency reporter Mehmet Güleş, who was arrested on 8 February as he was interviewing a search-and-rescue volunteer in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, was asked during his questioning about comments made by his interviewee criticizing the state institutions' response to two powerful earthquakes that hit the region on 6 February. 

The government imposed an emergency rule in 10 southern provinces affected by the eartquakes and there have been several reports of journalists being detained or prevented from covering developments in the quake-hit region. Authorities also blocked access to popular social media platforms Twitter and TikTok for several hours, prompting widespread accusations of political censorship at a time when people use social media to track survivors stuck under rubble and assist rescue efforts. 

Güleş was arrested along with the volunteer he interviewed, following which they were taken to the Diyarbakır police department and questioned there a day later. According to the records of the questioning at the police department that was seen by Expression Interrupted, Güleş was accused of "inciting people to hatred and enmity" because of the interview. 

During his questioning, Güleş was asked to explain why he was in the area and whether he had already known the person he interviewed. He was then asked if that person had said "There is no AFAD [Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency] here, there is no UMKE [National Medical Rescue Team]. People are fighting by their own means here. Our people has been left alone."

Güleş, in response, denied the accusation of incitement to hatred and said he was only covering search-and-rescue efforts in the aftermath of the earthquakes as a journalist. He said he approached the volunteer worker to ask questions about the efforts and started filming him on his telephone after he agreed to be interviewed. He then asked the volunteer if he knew who were under the rubble, how many had been saved, how many bodies were recovered and how the search-and-rescue efforts went in the area. Güleş added that he did not remember his words in verbatim but that he talked about AFAD teams being slower while police and fire brigade teams worked efficiently. Police officers approached them as the interview was ongoing and they were detained and taken away, according to Güleş's statement. 

Güleş's lawyer Resul Temur said the arrest was unlawful and requested that the journalist be released. "There is nothing lawful about a citizen expressing their thoughts and a journalist recording them," he said. Temur also requested that the digital materials seized from his client be returned, saying the constitution guarantees that materials used for journalistic purposes cannot be confiscated. 

Güleş and the volunteer worker were then taken to a courthouse to be questioned by a prosecutor. Temur said while the two were initially arrested for "incitement to hatred and enmity," the prosecutor accused them of "spreading false information" under Article 217/A of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK). The controversial article, which is commonly known as the "disinformation law," went into effect in October 2022 despite protests from the opposition parties and journalists and freedom of expression groups.

The judge released Güleş and the volunteer under judicial control measures, which consist of an international travel ban and a requirement to check-in a police station everyday.