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Unlawfully imprisoned journalist struggling with health conditions in prison

The image shows Ziya Ataman posing while holding his camera, a woman in the background. Source: Evrensel

 In 2016, after the attempted coup d’état in Turkiye,  the government decrees (KHK) targeted the freedom of the press, and one media news agent including DIHA (Turkish: Dicle Haber Ajansi, DİHA). These news agents are known as its pro-Kurdish news. 27 of its journalists were in prison by 2012, the agent was shut down by KHK and 13 of its journalists were prisoned by January 2017. The current government shows strict restrictions on pro-Kurdish media and politics.

The allegations about the journalists were being part of a (terrorist) organisation (9), (terrorist) organisation propaganda (4), helping a (terrorist) organisation (1), obtaining and disclosing confidential information of the state for political and military espionage (1). Most of the trials included the journalists’ own news and photo images they produced as part of their job as evidence against them. This is a direct targeting of free press media in Turkey. The lack of evidence or explanation on what the “ terrorist organisation” is draws attention to the lack of justice and free expression in the media agencies.

Ziya Ataman is one of the journalists who were imprisoned for being a member of a (terrorist) organisation for 14 years and 3 months in September 2019 without concrete evidence for the allegations. In 2020, he was not allowed to attend his father’s funeral. He was also switched to another prison, further away from his family’s location where he calls himself “in exile”. His medical condition, chronic digestive system disease, has been ignored as his special dietary requirements are ignored, and the discomfort he experiences in long trips such as transferring to other prisons is ignored. He is now being held in Erzurum Dumlu No, 2 High-Security Prison in solitary confinement.

 His last letter says this type of prison system “smells of (human) rights violations” from reduced hours outdoors, weekly searches, ideological arguments with the personnel workers, and rejection of the access of prisoners. Recently, his medical condition has been getting worse with his arrhythmia diagnosis. He does not have enough access to medical care and treatment.

 In addition, the Freedom of Press Index (Reporters without Borders) ranked Turkey as 165 out of 180 countries in 2023. However, the authorities have failed to recognise the imprisonment of journalists solely due to the nature of their job of providing unbiased news to the community. The Ministry of Justice, Yilmaz Tunc, cited there is no imprisonment of individuals due to their actions as journalists. The evidence gathered by the censorship of the press while many newsagents were shut down and their journalist workers were imprisoned shows the situation to be otherwise.

 We,  Rights Defenders demand immediate release of Ziya Ataman due to unlawful imprisonment with no concrete evidence that would support the case against him. He needs urgent, intense medical care that he does not have access to in prison. We also condemn the detention of journalists due to political reasons that they do not convey the message the government demands.


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