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Greek Journalists Covering Turkey’s Earthquake Cameras Destroyed

ATHENS – While Turkey commended Greece for sending aid and recovery teams during a deadly earthquake that brought a temporary pause in provocations, three Greek journalists who went there to cover the tragedy said that their cameras and mobile equipment were destroyed by Diyanet, the religious authority.

According to a report by Balkan Insight (BIRN), photojournalists Kyriakos Finas and Konstantinos Zilos, and reporter Viktoras Antonopoulos, who are freelancers, went to Turkey to report on the tragedy that killed more than 50,000 people and had received official journalistic accreditation from the Turkish state, which is trying to stifle independent media.

They said that they went to a mass grave in the Narlica district in Turkey’s Hatay province that was devastated by the earthquakes, guided by Turkish soldiers, who said they should follow a car where two Turks and a German journalist were riding, headed to an area where they could take photos freely.

Zilos had reached the field where victims of the earthquake had been buried when his colleagues called and informed him they could not enter the area. Then, two men in blue vests who were allegedly workers for the Diyanet asked Zilos to follow them, the report said.

“They took me to an office. There I tried to explain that I didn’t take any pictures, just one with my cell phone. I showed them my camera and my cell phone. After a while, they brought their Turkish colleagues, and Kyriakos and Victoras, who were waiting in the car. The Turkish colleagues informed us that they would confiscate our equipment for three months. They took the cameras from Kyriakos and me, Victoras’s cell phone, and from the Turkish colleagues, a drone,” Zilos told BIRN.

“The fact that we are from Greece played no role in their decision to destroy our stuff. It wasn’t even commented on where we were from. Besides, they also broke the drone of our Turkish colleagues,” Antonopolous told BIRN.

Their lawyer, Veysel Ok, co-chair of the Media and Law Studies Association, MLSA, said that Diyanet workers attacked the journalists as Turkish security forces watched the incident without intervening.

“This incident is a result of the Turkish government’s approach to journalists during the quake disaster. Many journalists were attacked, detained and expelled from the area because they only wanted to do their jobs,” Ok said.

They were allowed to leave and called the Greek embassy, which told them the next day that their equipment was still in the same place but when they went there to get it, they said it had been destroyed.

After the incident, the Turkish embassy in Athens contacted the Greek journalists, telling them that Turkey’s state Anadolu News Agency, AA, would give them new equipment, but Zilos told BIRN that they still have not received anything.

“It’s not just about compensation; they can’t silence us! If we allow this, more incidents will continue to happen against press freedom. We will not solve the problem but we have to pursue it,” Zilos said.

Ok said they will ask Turkish courts to ensure that, “Diyanet workers are identified and journalists’ material and immaterial damages should be compensated. Journalism is a public service and disrupting a public service is a crime.”

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