French journalist held in Turkey on hunger strike: Press freedom group

French journalist held in Turkey on hunger strike: Press freedom group

ANKARA - Agence France-Presse
French journalist held in Turkey on hunger strike: Press freedom group A French journalist held in Turkey for over two weeks has begun a hunger strike to protest his detention, press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on May 23.

Photographer Mathias Depardon was detained on May 8 while working on a report in Hasankeyf in the southeastern province of Batman for National Geographic magazine.  
He has been held in detention despite reports that he would be deported.

“Mathias has decided to start a hunger strike and he is now on his third day,” Erol Önderoğlu, RSF representative in Turkey, told AFP.

RSF said it was informed of the beginning of the hunger strike by the journalist’s Turkish lawyer, who was not immediately available for comment.

After his detention, Depardon was transferred to a center run by the immigration department in the southeastern province of Gaziantep where he has been held despite a deportation order issued on May 11.

“We still do not know why this expulsion decision has not been enforced,” said Önderoğlu.

A French diplomatic source told AFP that the Turkish authorities have given no response to requests for consular access, including by telephone.

The Turkish authorities say that Depardon was working without a valid press card, as his request for a renewal for this year had not been granted. “This could lead to him being expelled,” said Önderoğlu.

But the authorities have said he was detained for “propaganda for a terror group” - a reference to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) - and this could lead to a judicial investigation, he added.

RSF and 19 news organizations for which he has worked wrote last week to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, requesting Depardon’s immediate release.

“There is no ground to detain or deport Depardon. He should be allowed to continue his work in Turkey,” the letter said.

Depardon was working on images concerning the fate of Hasankeyf, a historic town much of which will be under water or risk damage in the next years because of the development of the Ilısu Dam project.

Supporters say the project will drastically improve energy supplies and prosperity for the southeast, but critics fear it will destroy heritage.

Turkey ranks 155th on the latest RSF world press freedom index, below Belarus and the Democratic Republic of Congo, dropping by four places from its 2016 ranking.

According to the P24 press freedom website, there are 165 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were detained as part of the state of emergency imposed after the July 2016 failed coup attempt.