ON 4 OCTOBER, a police squad barged into the Istanbul studio of IMC TV—a nationwide Turkish channel. Utku Zirig, the presenter of that day’s programme, did not stop the broadcast. In a video recording of the event, posted to Youtube on the same day, Zirig narrates the disruption with a steady voice. The video shows many members of his production team filming the action with their mobile phones, and following the police around as they shut down the channel. Zirig’s co-host, IMC TV’s general manager, can be seen shaking his arm frantically, inviting the police into the studio and addressing them with a phrase President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had uttered months earlier to condemn terrorists: “For demons, long live hell.”
On 15 July, a faction of Turkey’s military unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow Erdogan’s democratically elected government, leaving 265 people dead. After the coup failed, Erdogan declared an ongoing state of emergency, which allows him to decree laws without the approval of parliament. Since then, his regime has been arresting journalists and closing media outlets seen as oppositional to the government, often charging them with terrorism-related crimes. The government has shuttered 168 outlets, many of which had alleged links to Fethullah Gulen, the Muslim cleric accused of instigating the coup. However, this press crackdown has also affected another group: pro-Kurdish journalists. Out of the 107 journalists who are currently in prison in Turkey, 29 worked for pro-Kurdish outlets. Many pro-Kurdish outlets, including IMC TV, have been shut down because they are accused of having ties with Kurdish separatists—who have for years been labelled terrorists in Turkey.
From 1984 through 2013, the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, led an armed struggle against the government, calling for an independent Kurdish state. After more than 40,000 people died in the fighting, Erdogan championed a 2013 ceasefire. That ended in July 2015, as armed clashes raged between Turkish armed forces and the PKK in Turkey’s majority-Kurdish south-eastern region. Since the ceasefire ended, more than 355,000 civilians have been displaced, and at least 388 killed.
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