Turkish authorities shut down first Kurdish all-female news agency

 'We do not bow down to the decrees of the AKP, which is misogynistic and counts women as nothing'

Alexandra Sims
Tuesday 01 November 2016 13:08
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JINHA staff at a press conference in Istnabul
JINHA staff at a press conference in Istnabul

Turkish authorities have shut down the world’s first international feminist news agency amid a wide ranging government crackdown on opposition media.

JINHA, a Kurdish all-female news agency based in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakır, was closed down and their main office forcibly sealed on Saturday night, along with a series of other major and local media outlets.

The shutdown came after the Turkish government published two new statuary decrees under the country’s state of emergency, which was extended by 90 days earlier this month following a failed coup in July by a rogue faction of the military to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

JINHA describe themselves as a news agency providing "daily news by and about women from Kurdistan, Turkey and around the world with all-women news teams in Turkey, Rojava and Iraqi Kurdistan". It was set up by a group of six female journalists last year who despaired of the poor media coverage given to violent attacks on women in Turkey, Vice reports.

Reports on their website said the agency’s main office was sealed “without any notification” and “the door [...] was forcibly opened and the lock was changed without informing anyone”.

Along with JINHA, a string of other major and local Kurdish media organisations were shut down, including Dicle News Agency (DIHA), three magazines and 10 newspapers. According to reports, police also sealed the door of DIHA's Ankara office without warning.

Staff from the organisations held a joint press conference at the Human Rights Association's Istanbul branch on Monday reacting to the closures, where people held banners saying: “Every woman is a JINHA reporter” and “We women will keep writing no matter what men say or decree”.

JINHA reporter Rojda Oğuz said: “We are once again facing a period when massacres in Kurdistan are recurring. The AKP [Turkey's Justice and Development party founded by Mr Erdogan in 2001] is attempting to make a show with the state of emergency and the KHK statutory decrees by shutting down news agencies, TV channels, radio stations and journalists and to silence the opposition press.

(Jinha Women's News Agency/ Facebook ) JINHA said they will continue reporting on Facebook and Twitter

“What the AKP wants to say with its attacks is, ‘I killed you, I murdered you, and now I am stopping you from telling anyone about it'. We do not bow down to the decrees of the AKP, which is misogynistic and counts women as nothing. We will continue to write without thinking what men will decree.”

“Our message to the AKP state is this: ‘We are here. We’re not going anywhere. We will continue to do journalism’. We will continue to get the truth to the people.”

JINHA said they will continue reporting on Facebook and Twitter. Supporters have expressed their solidarity with the female journalists using the Twitter hashtag #JINHAsusmayacak, or #JINHAcannotbesilenced.

In the wake of July’s failed coup tens of thousands of civil servants have been suspended, fired or detained, with the government blaming the coup bid on exiled Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.

The government has shut more than 100 media outlets and detained dozens of journalists as it presses a purge that has been criticised by Western leaders and human rights organisations.

On Monday, Turkish courts ordered a media blackout on reporting the detention of Murat Sabuncu, the editor-in-chief of secularist opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet.

CNN Turk said police have issued detention warrants for 13 of the paper's journalists and executives.

Opposition politicians arrived at Cumhuriyet's headquarters in Istanbul and its office in the capital Ankara in a show of solidarity. Hundreds of demonstrators also gathered, chanting anti-government slogans.

"Instead of moves to strengthen democracy, we are faced with a counter-coup," main opposition party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said. "We are faced with a situation where the coup has been used as an opportunity to silence society's intellectuals and mount pressure on media."

The detentions sparked an international outcry, with European Parliament President Martin Schulz calling them "yet another red line crossed against freedom of expression in Turkey” over Twitter.

The European Union and United States condemned the move against Cumhuriyet, a pillar of the country's secularist establishment. The government of Turkey, a NATO member which aspires to join the EU, has so far declined comment other than to say it is a legal issue.

Prosecutors accuse staff at the paper, one of few media outlets still critical of President Tayyip Erdogan, of committing crimes on behalf of Kurdish militants and the network of Fethullah Gulen.

Amnesty International said: “Turkey’s only remaining mainstream opposition newspaper is part of an ongoing systematic attempt to silence all critical voices. Together with the shutting down of media houses over the weekend, this is the latest wave in a post-coup purge which has turned Turkey’s once vibrant media landscape into a wasteland.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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