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Stockholm: Skyline International expresses deep concern over the ongoing trial of 18 Kurdish journalists in Turkey. These journalists, most of whom have been imprisoned for over a year, are facing allegations of having connections with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The defendants argue that they are being unjustly targeted as part of a larger effort by the state to suppress Kurdish media.

The trial, which commenced with its first hearing on Tuesday in the Diyarbakir (Amed) province, raises serious questions about the state of press freedom in Turkey. Last year, Turkish authorities conducted raids on various Kurdish news outlets, resulting in the detention of 22 journalists. The majority of them were remanded into custody, accused of having ties to PKK-affiliated media, as reported by state media at the time. Mezopotamya news agency, whose journalists were among those targeted, revealed that 18 journalists, three of whom are currently not in detention, are now facing trial in Diyarbakir.

According to the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), a respected non-profit rights organization closely following the case, the journalists are being charged with "membership in a terrorist organization." Mehmet Sahin, one of the journalists, bravely addressed the judges in Kurdish, asserting their innocence and stating that the prosecutor who filed the case "surely knows that we are not guilty." Sahin further emphasized that their prosecution is a deliberate attempt to "dissolve Kurdish journalism."

Expressing his discontent, Sahin stated, "Those who detained us had to invent a crime for us. They tried to create this crime for 10 months. A total of 399 days later, we are in front of the judge. This is a great injustice."

Journalist Serdar Altan, quoted by MLSA, added, "This is a case of eliminating and neutralizing journalism. In a country where Kurds are not accepted, Kurdish journalists are not being accepted either."

The trial adjourned on Tuesday and is set to resume on Wednesday morning, during which the lawyers representing 13 of the journalists will present their case, as confirmed by MLSA.

Skyline International underscores the importance of a free and independent press as a cornerstone of democracy. The organization condemns any attempts to suppress media outlets, target journalists, or curtail freedom of expression. Skyline International urges the Turkish authorities to ensure a fair and transparent trial for the Kurdish journalists, respecting their rights to freedom of speech and a fair defense.

It is worth noting that the PKK, the group with which the journalists are accused of having affiliations, is designated as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government.

According to Reporters Without Borders, a leading global press freedom monitor, Turkey ranks 165th out of 180 countries on its Press Freedom Index for 2023. This decline from the previous year, where Ankara was placed 149th, highlights the urgent need for greater press freedom in the country.

Skyline International continues to monitor the situation closely and calls upon the international community to join efforts in safeguarding press freedom and defending the rights of journalists worldwide.