Yavuz Baydar: Turkey takes wife of journalist hostage

Police in Erzurum raided the home of journalist Bülent Korucu and, in his absence, arrested his wife until he presents himself to the authorities.

06 Aug 2016
Bülent Korucu

Bülent Korucu, former columnist for Zaman and former editor-in-chief of Aksiyon.

As I’ve been writing for months now, the job that runs the highest risk in Turkey is, without a shred of doubt, journalism.

So you can imagine my sense of bitterness when I woke yesterday to the unanswered cries of despair from a teenage boy trying to save his mother from unlawful imprisonment.

“I am the son of journalist Bülent Korucu,” Tarık Korucu tweeted on 2 August. “Since my father is not found, my mother has been taken hostage for six days now. Please, I beg you, do not stay silent on this unlawful act.”

Hacer Korucu, who is the mother of five children, was taken into police custody on 31 July when the Korucu family flat was raided. The search was part of the crackdown on 42 journalists, many of whom were affiliated with Zaman daily. Bülent was on the list. His current whereabouts are unknown.

Earlier, Tarık tweeted that the police refused to allow his mother to take her one-year-old baby with her. They told his elder brother: “We will narrow the circle around you until your father comes out, and you will be next.”

Tarık’s despair, which was heartwrenching, reached a new low yesterday. He sent out “help us, speak out for us!” messages to a number of parliamentary deputies and journalists like Can Dündar. Only one deputy, Mahmut Tanal from the main opposition, CHP, reacted. Large chunks of the Turkish media are too busy these days attacking their colleagues and outlets in the West. Many Turkish columnists are joining the government chorus which demonises those in the media who are supposed to be Gülen affiliated, while ignoring the Korucu family’s plight in a mood of revenge. 

Only brave, independent news sites like Diken, T24 and the Platform for Independent Journalism that reported the case. The rest maintain a deadly, acrimonious silence.

Yesterday, Korucu’s children were told they could go and visit their mother if they could find a lawyer in the ultra-conservative eastern city of Erzurum. This was impossible. “We can not find a lawyer for my mom,” Tarık tweeted. “Unfortunately, lawyers are done for as the rule of law collapsed over here. There isn’t a lawyer with a conscience in this big city.”

I am left speechless. And we still don’t know the grounds on which Hacer is kept in custody. 

As of Friday, 42 journalists have been detained since the coup attempt. This brings the total number of jailed journalists in Turkey up 77, possibly the highest number of any country in the world.

In addition, we learned yesterday of two Kurdish reporters arrested in Yüksekova, in Hakkari province.

Korucu family’s tragedy is only a small part of an immense drama, leaving me in no doubt that journalism is the riskiest profession in Turkey.

According to European Journalism Observatory: “More than 100 Turkish media outlets have been closed, their assets seized by the government. Critical newspapers including Yarina Bakış, Özgür Düşünce, Meydan and Taraf, as well as the news site Haberdar and pro-Kurdish news agency DİHA have ceased publishing.”

A key aspect in this updated data has escaped the attention of my Western colleagues. An endless stream of seizures and the demonisation of the media mean that hundreds of journalists who do not end up in jail find themselves out in the streets, marked as “toxic” simply because they are abiding by the principle of remaining critical of power structures. Many will never again find a job in parts of the “central” media, which has been invaded by the culture of self-censorship.

Many of us journalists have lost outlets we’ve worked and are left without income. Many are doomed to either starvation or obedience to the powers that be. We have no chance of being employed in decent conditions unless a miracle happens or we receive mercy from our freedom-hating rulers. This is the real tragedy that has swooped over journalism in Turkey.

A version of this article originally appeared on Suddeutsche Zeitung. It is posted here with the permission of the author.

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Yavuz Baydar

Yavuz Baydar

Yavuz Baydar is the co-founder of Platform for Independent Journalism (P24), an initiative to support and promote editorial independence in the Turkish press. He is a veteran Turkish columnist and blogger and was awarded the Special Award of the European Press Prize in 2014.
Yavuz Baydar

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