U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Turkish journalist slapped repeatedly during live broadcast in Pennsylvania

Incident Details

Date of Incident
June 1, 2024

Assault

Was the journalist targeted?
Yes
SCREENSHOT CNN TÜRK, VIA YOUTUBE

Shadows show the assault of journalist Yunus Paksoy during a live broadcast on CNN Türk on June 1, 2024, as his phone was knocked out of his hands.

— SCREENSHOT CNN TÜRK, VIA YOUTUBE
June 1, 2024

A journalist for CNN Türk was repeatedly slapped and nearly struck by an SUV on June 1, 2024, during a live broadcast in rural Pennsylvania.

Yunus Paksoy, the Washington D.C. bureau chief for CNN Türk, an Istanbul-based news channel affiliated with CNN, was broadcasting live with his iPhone outside the Chestnut Retreat Center in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, which is believed to be the residence of the U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.

A GMC SUV drove directly toward Paksoy so that he had to jump from the curb into the roadway to avoid being hit, according to a criminal complaint.

On air, Paksoy is heard saying in English: “Pull away. Pull away. Just pull away. What the hell do you think you’re doing here? Are you mad? Are you mad? What are you doing?”

The driver, Ekrem Candir, then backed up and got out of the car, approached Paksoy and slapped his face, the complaint said, shaking the camera so it panned to the pavement. He then shoved the journalist.

Candir turned away, then came back and slapped Paksoy again, knocking the iPhone and other items out of his hand, the criminal complaint filed by Pennsylvania State Police said.

The broadcast view shows a jerky movement between the sky and pavement as the phone falls onto the road, then cuts off. The phone was undamaged.

Candir proceeded to pull Paksoy back into the roadway by his arm and head, then slapped Paksoy’s head and back of the neck again, the complaint said. Paksoy’s shirt was torn open in the attack.

Candir, a resident of the retreat, was arrested and charged with simple assault, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and harassment. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Magisterial District Court in Brodheadsville on Aug. 8.

Paksoy was treated at a hospital for bruises and abrasions. He tweeted later that day that he was in good condition.

Troopers said Paksoy stayed in public areas and didn’t enter the retreat’s private property. In his broadcast, Paksoy showed the “No Trespassing” signs outside the property and explained that it would be illegal to enter without permission.

The Chestnut Retreat Center was started by Turkish American Muslims and, according to its website, is based on the teachings of Gülen, who has lived in the U.S. since 1999. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blames the cleric for a 2016 coup attempt. The U.S. has declined requests to extradite Gülen.

Erdoğan spokesman Fahrettin Altun tweeted his condolences to Paksoy and said he would work with U.S. authorities to seek punishment for those behind the attack. The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs also condemned the attack.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].