A Turkish court has jailed 16 Kurdish journalists for allegedly spreading terrorist propaganda and “belonging to a terrorist organisation”.
The media workers were accused of being close to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the southeast city of Diyarbakir.
The HDP, the third-largest group in the Turkish parliament, is accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of being the “political showcase” of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.
A total of twenty journalists were arrested earlier this month for alleged links to the PKK, and four people have since been released under judicial supervision.
NGOs have criticised the latest prison sentences amid eroding press freedoms in Turkey.
“We are living in the darkest days of our country as far as press freedom is concerned,” said Nazim Bilgin, the president of the Journalists’ Association of Turkey.
Since 2016, several hundred HDP members have been arrested, including its charismatic leader Selahattin Demirtas.
The latest arrests come just one year before the next presidential election in Turkey, as Ankara says it is preparing an offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.
Turkey currently ranks 149th out of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index.