IPI Condemns Detention of Turkish Journalists in North Ossetia
The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, condemns the detention of Turkish journalists Levent Öztürk, Guray Ervin, Hilmi Hacaloglu and Cumhur Catkaya, who were held by Russian authorities in Vladikavkaz, the capital of the Russian Republic of North Ossetia.
According to information before IPI, Öztürk and Ervin of the television station Kanal Türk and Hacaloglu and Catkaya of the television station NTV found themselves under attack shortly after crossing the border from Georgia into South Ossetia on 10 August 2008. The journalists had passed through an unmanned Georgian checkpoint into the South Ossetian capital, Tshkinvali, when their vehicle came under fire. Hacaloglu and Catkaya were unharmed, whereas Öztürk and Evin received slight injuries.
The journalists were then taken from the vehicle and assaulted by Russian soldiers. Öztürk and Ervin received treatment in a local hospital, and were then transported in an ambulance convoy to a hospital in North Ossetia. There they were interrogated for a number of hours by Russian officials, asked to explain why they did not have Russian visas, and warned not to leave their rooms. Meanwhile, Hacaloglu and Catkaya had been taken to an armoured vehicle, where they were interrogated for 12 hours by Russian officials. They were later also taken to North Ossetia, and placed under house-arrest in a hotel near the hospital where their colleagues were being held.
Following negotiations between the representatives of the Turkish TV channels and the Russian authorities, an airplane was eventually allowed to collect the journalists and return them to Turkey, where they arrived late in the evening on 13 August 2008.
"We express our relief at the safe return of the four Turkish journalists, but condemn their detention and harassment while being held," said IPI Deputy-Director Michael Kudlak. "The four journalists were attacked and detained while simply carrying out their duties as journalists."
The recent conflict involving Georgia, Russia and South Ossetian separists took a heavy toll on journalists, with at least three killed and nine wounded since fighting broke out on 9 August 2008. Stan Storimans, a journalist with Dutch television channel RTL Nieuws, Alexander Klimchuk of the Russian news agency Itar-Tass and Grigol Chikhladze, a correspondent for the Russian edition of Newsweek magazine, are the three journalists who have lost their lives covering the crisis.