Two CBC journalists covering violent anti-government protests in Turkey were detained by police in Istanbul Wednesday, prompting Ottawa to demand their immediate release.
Sasa Petricic and Derek Stoffel had been tweeting photos and observations from around Turkey’s largest city when the flow of information ended just before noon with a single tweet from Petricic’s account.
“Arrested,” he tweeted.
The CBC said Wednesday afternoon that it had been in contact with the two reporters.
“We can confirm both journalists have been detained but are in good condition,” said spokesman Chuck Thompson.
The reporters appeared to have re-gained access to their cellphones about an hour after their arrests were confirmed and both tweeted about being detained.
“Sasa and I are OK. In police custody but OK. Thanks for kind words. Will lose mobile phones very quickly so good night,” Stoffel said on Twitter.
“All good so far. Going through the Byzantine (literally) process! Thanks everyone,” Petricic added.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird tweeted that he had contacted the Turkish ambassador and expressed concern about the incident.
Diane Ablonczy, minister of state for consular affairs, said the government was monitoring the situation closely.
“Canadian officials are in touch both with the CBC and have met with the two detained journalists,” she said in the House of Commons.
“The Turkish ambassador has assured us that the two journalists are safe and well treated and we will continue to liaise at the highest levels until this matter is resolved.”
The House of Commons also unanimously approved a motion brought by Liberal MP Bob Rae which condemned the arrest and detention of the two reporters and called on Turkish authorities “to release them immediately.”
Turkey has experienced nearly two weeks of protests that began in Istanbul after a violent police crackdown on a peaceful sit-in by activists objecting to a development project.
The protests have since spread to dozens of other cities and are shaping up as the biggest test yet in the 10-year rule of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted government.
The protesters say the prime minister is becoming increasingly authoritarian and is trying to force his deep religious views on all Turks. Erdogan insists the protests are being organized by extremists and terrorists and must end immediately.
Activists say 5,000 people have been injured or seriously affected by the tear gas and four people have died in the protests.
On Wednesday, thousands of Turkish lawyers took to the streets, sounding off on the alleged rough treatment of their colleagues by police.
Later in the day, the governing party said it was open to holding a referendum over the Istanbul development plan that has had a central role in the mass protests.
The announcement came after talks between Erdogan and a group of activists. It was the first big gesture by his government to end the civil unrest.
A spokesman for the ruling party also said, however, that the government would not allow an ongoing sit-in at a park which has been at the centre of the protests to continue “until doomsday.”
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