A French journalist held in Turkey for over two weeks has begun a hunger strike to protest at his detention, press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Tuesday.
Photographer Mathias Depardon was detained on 8 May while working on a report in Hasankeyf in the southeastern Batman province for National Geographic magazine. He has been held ever since despite reports that he would be deported.
"Mathias has decided to start a hunger strike and this is now in its third day," Erol Onderoglu, RSF representative in Turkey, told AFP. RSF said it was informed of the beginning of the hunger strike by the journalist's Turkish lawyer, who was not immediately available for comment.
After his detention, Depardon was transferred to a centre run by the immigration department in the southeastern city of Gaziantep where he has been held despite a deportation order issued on 11 May. "We still do not know why this expulsion decision has not been enforced," said Onderoglu.
A French diplomatic source told AFP that the Turkish authorities have given no response to requests for consular access, including by telephone. The Turkish authorities say that Depardon was working without a valid press card, as his request for a renewal for this year had not been granted. This could lead to him being expelled, said Onderoglu.
But the authorities have said he was detained for "propaganda for a terror group" - a reference to outlawed Kurdish militants - and this could lead to a judicial investigation, said Onderoglu.
RSF and 19 news organisations for which he has worked last week wrote to Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu requesting Depardon's immediate release.
"There is no ground to detain or deport Depardon. He should be allowed to continue his work in Turkey," the letter said. Depardon was working on images concerning the fate of Hasankeyf, a historic town much of which will be under water or risk damage in the next years because of the development of the Ilisu Dam project.
Supporters say the project will drastically improve energy supplies and prosperity for the Kurdish-dominated southeast, but critics fear it will destroy heritage.
Turkey ranks 155 on the latest RSF world press freedom index, below Belarus and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a drop of four places from its 2016 ranking.
According to the P24 press freedom website, there are 165 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were detained as part of the state of emergency imposed after the failed 15 July coup.