DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Kurdistan 24) – The single Kurdish language daily in Turkey decided to go online after Ankara authorities took over a printing house it was using, thus effectively preventing its print edition, Kurdistan 24’s bureau in Diyarbakir reported on Monday.
That is if Turkey’s telecommunication directorate does not block its newly-launched welat.biz website, as is the case with hundreds of other Kurdish and opposition news outlets on the Internet.
The newspaper, Welat, began its publication in August last year as a predecessor to the “Azadiya Welat” which was ordered to close in late 2016 by the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
For Azadiya Welat’s 24 journalists under months-long detention, prosecutors have demanded 300 years in prison in total over terrorism charges.
Last week, a police raid on the Gun printing house Welat was using, and the government’s decision to appoint a trustee to run the company owning it, forced the daily’s staff to photocopy the Friday edition.
That was to be their last print version, and the last Kurdish daily in Turkey, with the headline “They are afraid of our language.”
Police meanwhile arrested at least 28 reporters and media workers affiliated with Gun and a Turkish language, pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgurlukcu Demokrasi.
Welat’s editor-in-chief Zeynel Bulut told Kurdistan 24 that the Turkish state was trying to bring an end to Kurdish publications through increasing pressure.
They target us “so that what they do in Kurdistan remains in the dark, outside public knowledge,” Bulut said, referring to army operations against Kurdish rebels, and mounting human rights violations taking place.
According to Turkey Journalists’ Syndicate, the Erdogan administration has shuttered 180 media outlets, among them Radio and TV stations, newspapers, and magazines since the beginning of an ongoing state of emergency in the aftermath of the 2016 military coup attempt.
The syndicate’s head of Diyarbakir branch, Mahmut Oral, told Kurdistan 24 that Turkey’s democracy was under grave danger and the Kurdish paper’s having to go online was another sign.
Over 170 media workers currently remain in pre-trial detention or imprisonment across Turkey, making the Western-allied country number one in jailing journalists with a record high that surpasses figures in Russia, China, and Iran.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Kurdistan 24’s Diyarbakir correspondent Hesen Kako contributed to this report)