US journalist deported, banned from returning

Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the Turkish interior ministry’s decision to deport US journalist Jake Hess and ban him from re-entering the country. Arrested by anti-terrorist police in the mainly Kurdish southeastern province of Diyarbakir on 11 August, Hess was deported on 20 August after being held for nine days.

In its release in response to Hess’ arrest, Reporters Without Borders had demanded his immediate release and warned that his expulsion would not be an appropriate solution.

“My client’s articles are said to have put the Turkish government in a delicate position,” his lawyer, Serkan Akbas, said. “The grounds given by the authorities for expelling him and banning him from re-entering the country are the fact that his name is on a list of people accused of links with the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KSK).” The KSM is a new organisation that is alleged to be an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Hess has told Reporters Without Borders he intends to bring a complaint against the interior ministry with the aim of getting the re-entry ban lifted. He also said he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

13 August 2010

US journalist detained in southeast over coverage of Kurdish issue

Jake Hess, an American freelance journalist who writes for Inter Press Service (IPS), was arrested on 11 August in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, in southeastern Turkey, and is currently being held at the headquarters of the city’s anti-terrorist unit.

Accused of links with the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KSK), a new organisation that is alleged to be an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Hess could be deported or placed in pre-trial detention today.

“Detaining a journalist should be an exceptional measure resulting from a thorough investigation establishing that he has committed a serious crime,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call for Hess’s immediate release. Neither placing him in pre-trial detention nor deporting him are appropriate solutions.

“Journalists who investigate sensitive subjects such as the Kurdish issue in Turkey are required to get in touch with all the parties involved. That should not be regarded as a crime. The Turkish authorities should be more transparent in their handling of this case and should avoid confusing journalists with what they cover.”

The press freedom organisation added: “Kurdish media and journalists who cover the consequences of Turkish policy towards the Kurds are too often the target of harassment, which the authorities clumsily try to justify as a necessary part of their efforts to combat terrorism.”

Hess’s lawyer, Serkan Akbas, told Reporters Without Borders he was arrested at around 5:45 p.m. on 11 August as part of an investigation into the KCK. He said Hess’s name appears in an indictment prepared by the Diyarbakir prosecutor’s office. It accuses him of frequenting the local office of the Human Rights Association (IHD) and acting as an interpreter for the IHD office and for delegations visiting Diyarbakir.

Akbas said he did not think that the investigation into the KCK was the real reason for Hess’s arrest as he has never been summoned or questioned in the past in connection any proceedings against the KCK. The real reason had to be the articles he has written for IPS about the region’s deliberately-started forest fires, the depopulation of Kurdish villages and Turkish air strikes on homes in northern Iraq, he said.

The trial of 150 alleged KCK members is due to start in Diyarbakir on 18 October. The defendants include Ahmet Birsin, the editor-in-chief of Diyarbakir-based Gün TV. If the prosecutor’s office decides to include Hess in this case, he could spend the next month and a half in pre-trial detention.

The pro-Kurdish news agency Diha (Tiger), said Hess had helped the IHD in Diyarbakir but the IHD insisted that he had spent time at its office simply because he was a journalist.

The news agency DHA (Dogan) said that Hess’s name had appeared in letters sent to European government officials and that he had provided information to the US authorities. It also said that he had worked with Muharrem Erbey, the former head of the IHD’s Diyarbakir branch, who was jailed on 24 December 2009 in connection with his political activity.