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Promising 24-year-old photographer arrested in Turkey

September 14, 2017

Another one among many: The young Turkish photo journalist Cagdas Erdogan has been arrested by the country's authorities. His photos document Turkey's outsiders.

Fotograf Cagdas Erdogan
Image: Valentina Abenavoli

After 12 days of detention in an Istanbul police station, Turkish photo journalist Cagdas Erdogan was formally arrested on Wednesday according to his agency "140journos" and the Stockholm Center for Freedom.

An Istanbul court charged him with taking a photograph of a restricted building of Turkey's National Intelligence Agency (MIT).

His work has been published by international media outlets such as the Associated Press, Agence France Press, Getty Images, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Newsweek, Politico, Bloomberg, the BBC and Buzzfeed.

"140journos," an independent Turkish news outlet publishing the work of young journalists, pointed out that early this year the "British Journal of Photography" included Cagdas Erdogan in the list of "photographers to watch."

A photo from Cagdas Erdogan's book "Control"
One of the "photographers to watch": a photo from Cagdas Erdogan's book "Control"Image: Çağdaş Erdoğan

Read more: Contemporary Turkish photographers depict Turkey's unrest and upheavals

According to Valentina Abenavoli, who published Erdogan's first book, Turkish authorities may have decided to arrest him because he has been documenting conflict in the country's Kurdish regions. "He was simply documenting the situation as a journalist," she told DW, adding "He's a very young and courageous photographer." 

Istanbul nights in black and white

Beyond his reporting, the 24-year-old photographer has featured his artistic work in exhibitions and a photo book.

"He's interested in outsiders, minority groups - he's a Kurd himself - and has been showing the dark side of Turkey, people fighting against oppression," said Abenavoli. The artistic black and white photos featured in "Control" include pictures of sex workers, illicit dog fights, gun violence and political armed conflict in segregated neighborhoods of Istanbul, where mostly Kurds, Alevis and refugees live. 

A photo from Cagdas Erdogan's book "Control"
Sex workers, dog fights and political fighters all reveal something about the social issues of the country, says Cagdas ErdoganImage: Çağdaş Erdoğan

Dire situation for freedom of the press 

Cagdas Erdogan's case is just one among many, as Turkish authorities have been cracking down on reporters ever since the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Read more: Turkey seeks arrest of dozens of journalists

According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom in a list last updated on August 28, 283 journalists and media workers are currently in prison. They include international reporters such as German journalist Deniz Yücel. 

Read more: Open letter from jailed journalist Deniz Yücel's wife: Open the door, it's me

The government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt, says the Stockholm organization. Turkey's Contemporary Journalists' Association also recently stated that over 900 press cards were invalidated. 


Portrait of a young woman with red hair and glasses
Elizabeth Grenier Editor and reporter for DW Culture