ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Detained French photojournalist Mathias Depardon has been deported from a Turkey, a month after his arrest while reporting for National Geograhpic magazine, announced the international freedom of press organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Friday.
“We are deeply relieved for Mathias Depardon and his family,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire wrote in a statement. “His detention was completely unjustified. A month was taken from his life for no reason, not to speak of the anxiety and uncertainty to which he was subjected.
Depardon was being held at a detention center in the southeastern city Turkish of Gaziantep, where Deloire, his mother Danièle Van de Lanotte and French deputy consul Christophe Hemmings visited yesterday.
“I am relieved to see him, it is quite a gift,” AFP reported Lanotteas saying. “He looked pretty good.”
National Geographic is renowned for its photo and travel journalism taking readers to the furthest reaches of the globe.
“I am very happy to announce the return to France this evening of our fellow photojournalist,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote in a tweet.
The 37-year-old was arrested in Hasankeyf, in Batman province, where AFP reported Turkish officials conducted a hugely ambitious and controversial operation to move a centuries-old tomb to new location to stave off the risk of flooding from a dam project.
He was detained on May 8, according to Turkish Hurriyet Daily News over “propaganda for a terror group.”
RSF wrote the detentioned stemmed over “an apparent allusion to photos of members of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) published in the past in French media outlets. The police are thought to have stumbled across them while looking at his social media accounts after he had been taken into police custody.”
Turkish authorities had reported that Depardon was working without a valid press card, and his request for renewal this year had not been granted, even though he’s been an Istanbul-based journalist for five years according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The independent journalist platform P24, which tracks press freedoms in Turkey, listed 165 journalists being detained in the country.
RSF lists Turkey as number 155 — between the Congo and Brunei — on its World Press Freedom Index out of 180 countries. Norway, Sweden and Finland top the list, while Turkmenistan, Eritrea, and North Korea are at the bottom.