Police sources were quoted by local media as saying on Sunday that Gungor Arslan, chief editor of the local daily Ses Kocaeli (The Voice of Kocaeli), was shot and seriously wounded the previous day, and died in the city hospital soon afterwards.
Police said they arrested a suspect but did not give any details of the shooting attack.
Erol Onderoglu, the Turkish representative of the Paris-based media rights group Reporters without Borders (RSF), condemned the killing and said Arslan had been investigating corruption in the city.
He called for those responsible to be identified and punished to the full extent of the law. “A lot of people regarded him as courageous for investigating corruption,” Onderoglu said.
In the past two editions of the newspaper, Arslan had accused the mayor of the city, a member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), of awarding contracts to groups close to the party. Arslan had already been the target of an attack and had also been placed under investigation for previous articles.
Turkey ranks a lowly 153 on the RSF’s latest worldwide Freedom of the Press Index. The Turkish government has been under fire for allegedly clamping down on journalists and sentencing them to long prison terms.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has already accused the Turkish government of silencing independent media in an attempt to block scrutiny or criticism of Ankara’s large-scale crackdown on dissidents following an abortive July 15 military coup in 2016.
In December of that year, the New York-based rights group said in a report that Turkey’s “assault” on critical journalism had accelerated after the putsch and that journalists had described the atmosphere in which they work as “stifling.”
The watchdog said some 140 media outlets and 29 publishing houses had been shut down since mid-July under post-coup emergency decrees, leaving over 2,500 journalists and media workers without jobs.
Accusing Ankara of using the criminal justice system as a tool against the media, the HRW also said the government in Turkey interfered with editorial independence and forced outlets to dismiss critical journalists.