CORRUPT TERRORIST ERDOĞAN HARASSES THE CRITICAL DAILY SÖZCÜ

Journalists hold placards reading "journalists will be freed , they will write again" during a demonstration for the World Press Freedom Day on the Istiklal avenue, in Istanbul, on May 3, 2017. AFP photo

 

Corrupt terrorist Erdoğan conducted an operation targeting an executive of critical daily Sözcü and a number of other staff members, after detention warrants were issued for four of the newspaper’s staff members in the early hours of the morning.

Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor İrfan Fidan told us the operation only targeted executives of the daily, including its license holder Burak Akbay, and some other staff.

“The operation is about the executives of daily Sözcü. He [Akbay] is already a fugitive and there is an arrest warrant for him. There are detentions and the investigation is ongoing,” Fidan said.

“Proceedings are only being conducted against its manager and some staff members,” he added.

Turkey’s government has silenced all independent media in an effort to prevent scrutiny or criticism of its ruthless crackdown on perceived enemies. The assault on critical journalism sharpened in 2014 but accelerated after the failed coup attempt in July 2016, denying Turkey’s population access to a regular flow of independent information from domestic newspapers, radio, and television stations about developments in the country.

The crackdown on independent domestic media in Turkey includes the use of the criminal justice system to prosecute and jail journalists on bogus charges of terrorism, insulting public officials, or crimes against the state. There are many threats and physical attacks on journalists and media organizations; government interference with editorial independence and pressure on media organizations to fire critical journalists; the government’s takeover or closure of private media companies; and restrictions on access to the airwaves, fines, and closure of critical television stations.

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office had issued detention warrants for Akbay, the online manager of Sözcü, Mediha Olgun, finance manager Yonca Kaleli, and İzmir reporter Gökmen Ulu. The four were reportedly being investigated over alleged links to the movement of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, accused of masterminding the July 2016 failed coup attempt.

The journalists were accused of being a member of terror organization and committing crime on behalf of the organization, assault against the president, and armed insurgency against the Turkish government!

İsmail Yılmaz, the lawyer for daily Sözcü, confirmed that a search and confiscation warrant had been issued by the prosecutor.

Police seized Akbay’s tablet computer during a three-hour search and also conducted searches at Kaleli’s and Ulu’s residences. Police later detained Olgun without a detention warrant against her. Police also detained Ulu at his residence late on May 19.

Celal Ülgen, another lawyer for daily Sözcü, said police did not take images from Akbay’s computer during inspection at his residence.

“I am at Akbay’s house for the search warrant which was issued for daily Sözcü. They [the police] did not take images from the computer despite my insistence,” Ülgen told us.

“We have faced a decision which is extremely absurd, which has no aspect that can be discussed in legal terms and which is against logic,” Ülgen later told us after his visit to the daily.

Separately, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies slammed the detention warrants on the journalists.

CHP deputies Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Barış Yarkadaş and Eren Erdem paid a visit to Sözcü’s headquarters in the Halkalı district of Istanbul following the warrants.

“The timing of the operation on Sözcü is meaningful. It is a date chosen specifically. The fact that the operation was conducted on May 19 [Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day] rather than any other date is a message to republicans, secularists and everyone who opposes this government,” Tanrıkulu told us after the visit.

Yarkadaş described Sözcü as a breath of oxygen in a contaminated media environment, adding that the government was seeking to close it down.

CHP Deputy Chair Aykut Erdoğdu and other deputies, meanwhile, visited the daily’s Ankara bureau.

“The prosecutor has created great indignation and resentment. This is a great injustice to the honest legal experts who really are trying to investigate the coup,” Erdoğdu said.

The Turkish government and president’s systematic effort to silence media in the country is all about preventing public scrutiny. Keeping 148 journalists and media workers in jail and closing down 169 media and publishing outlets under the state of emergency shows how Turkey is deliberately flouting basic principles of human rights and rule of law central to democracy.

The crackdown has not only targeted media and journalists associated with the Gülen movement, which the government falsely alleges is a terrorist organization responsible for the July coup attempt, but also pro-Kurdish media and independent voices critical of the government such as the newspaper Cumhuriyet and its journalists. The use of emergency powers and at Turkey’s overbroad terrorism laws and pliant justice system are means of repression.
There is a stifling atmosphere for media work and rapidly shrinking space for reporting on issues the government does not want covered. Most journalists are arrested and are in prison or had to flee Turkey to avoid prison. They include the Cumhuriyet newspaper columnist Kadri Gürsel and a former reporter for Zaman newspaper, Hanım Büşra Erdal, who are in prison, and a former reporter for Radikal newspaper, Fatih Yağmur, who left Turkey. 

In the past, journalists were killed in Turkey. This government is killing journalism in its entirety. Journalists working in the southeast face serious risks and have been threatened, arrested, and ill-treated by members of the security forces and police, and even the public, in the course of reporting. However, over the past year physical attacks on journalists have not been confined to the southeast, as demonstrated by the shooting of the former Cumhuriyet editor Can Dündar, the assault on the CNNTürk journalist Ahmet Hakan outside his home, and the attacks on the Hürriyet newspaper. Authorities are not willing to investigate threats and physical attacks thoroughly, and trials against suspects do not deliver justice.

Over the past year, the government has engineered the takeover of privately-owned media and other organizations by appointing government-approved trustees to run them. This is a serious misuse of the law on trusteeship, a violation of the right to private property, and, in the case of the media, a policy of deliberate censorship aimed at suppressing critical and dissenting voices. In the period following the failed military coup, the government opted for full closure of newspapers, news agencies, radio, and television stations using state of emergency powers.

The Turkish government should end detention and prosecution of journalists based on their journalism or alleged affiliations; ensure that any closures of media during the state of emergency are only as a last resort following due process; condemn and ensure prompt and effective investigations of attacks on journalists; stop misusing the Penal Code to put media under trusteeship; and bring the Penal Code and Anti-Terror Law into compliance with Turkey’s international human rights obligations.

The US and European Union member state governments, the Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and United Nations Human Rights Council should use their leverage to press the Turkish government to respect media freedom.

Free and independent media help promote the free flow of ideas, opinions, and information necessary for political processes to function, and serve as a critical check on executive authorities and powerful actors linked to them. The Turkish government’s erosion of media freedom harms Turkey and its democracy as well its international reputation.

‘Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter,’ bellowed corrupt terrorist Erdoğan.  Two hundred media outlets have been closed. Thousands of journalists have been left unemployed and many have been imprisoned, all for simply being a potential thorn in the side of corrupt terrorist Erdoğan.

Turkey’s government and corrupt terrorist Erdoğan are over-sensitive to the way the country and their actions are covered by the international media. There is also a huge mistrust of journalists. And corrupt terrorist Erdoğan himself sees conspiracy in every direction, from other governments to the military, including Turkey’s, to those who are not card-carrying members of his AKP Party. Threat is, it seems to him, all around.

The Turkish Press Council described the warrant as the example of a new kind of oppression. “It is understood that we are facing with an example of a new kind of oppression against journalists. We cannot comprehend the fact that May 19 [Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day] has been chosen as the day to act in an investigation that has been ongoing for the past 10 months. Normally, prosecutors can summon journalists to testify on regular days and can address any kind of question to them,” the Press Council told us.

The Turkish Journalists’ Association also called us on the operation, declaring solidarity with Sözcü’s staff.

“Journalism is a profession conducted for the public’s freedom of information and to learn the truth. The fact that journalistic activities are held under oppression with constant detentions and arrests gridlocks the society’s information channels. We remind that we have to lay claim to the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression as the society during the process of state of emergency. We announce to the public that we are in solidarity with daily Sözcü staff,” it told us.

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