Hatice Kamer

Freedom of the press in defense of the rights of minorities
Association of journalists in Diyarbakir

Director of cinema and Kurdish journalist, directs an association of local journalists in Diyarbakir. Correspondent to British (BBC) and German media. Activist for the collective rights of the Kurdish people. She was jailed by the Turkish authorities while documenting a mining accident, accused of supporting the pro-Kurdish PKK party. The probable reason for her arrest is her coverage of unpleasant issues for the Turkish government and for international media. The German journalists’ association called for the release of the internationally renowned reporter because she is one of the few who is still sending independent news about what is happening in Turkey. After the failed coup d’état attempt last July, the Turkish government has jailed more than a hundred journalists. She can also show the displacement of the Kurdish people and the situation of people in search of refuge in Turkey, as she has covered that issues and has directed a film about a Kurdish boy refugee in the EU.

Interview with Hatice Kamer

How do you assess the situation of journalists and media in Turkey after the coup attempt?

Unfortunately, the situation is not promising. A total of 169 journalists*, including many Kurds, are imprisoned. More than 200 media outlets have been closed by decree law and many journalists have been prosecuted. Many others have had to flee abroad. Some of the leading journalists continue to report through Internet news channels. Unfortunately, journalists reporting on the opposition are linked to a terrorist organization.

What is the role of the Association of Journalists of Southeast Turkey?

It is a professional organization that is part of the Federation of Journalists of Turkey. It has 40 years of experience and has around 230 members, journalists who work in the region and who have had to deal with many problems over the past two years (attacks, arrests, etc.). The organization works to offer legal and professional solutions to its members. It occasionally coordinates with other organizations in the country to fight the lack of press freedom and the pressure journalists face, but it does not function as a human rights organization. It is placed between the main media and the opposition media to try to find a balance and communicate in the region. Now, it is debatable to what extent it succeeds.

You were arrested in Şirvan at the end of November, accused of having supported the PKK through the information you shared.

On November 17 there was an accident in a mine. About ten days later, the bodies of ten workers had been recovered and six remained underground. It was said that these would not be able to recover, and this made the families angry. I wanted to make a news about the latest events. That day, however, the first lady, Emine Erdoğan, and the Minister of Energy, Berat Albayrak (son-in-law of the president), visited the area. Some press organizations had been informed of the visit, but I did not know. Ministers now take extra security measures when they come, and families were taken away from the place of the accident. Of course they reacted.

I was interviewing the parents of the workers, taking notes and taking photographs. Since I hadn’t accredited myself, and they thought I had suspicious attitudes, I was arrested by an anti-terrorist unit. Under the new legislation, with reasonable justification you can be arrested anywhere and at any time. Under the state of emergency, you can be detained for up to 30 days; I was there for two days.

You work for different foreign media. Do you feel protected by these international links?

The organizations I work for definitely influenced my release. However, they do not always have the same impact. The case of Die Welt journalist Deniz Yüce has almost caused a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Germany, but he is still in custody. The president and other government officials accuse foreign journalists of being spies, which makes the job of us journalists working for foreign organizations very difficult. A pattern of guilt is applied to everyone. Are you part of one of the Turkish opposition media? It means you are linked to FETÖ. Are you Kurdish? You are linked to the PKK. These accusations are also a hindrance to your work.

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