Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Istanbul’s police headquarters on Monday to denouce the arrest of several people connected to media criticial of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Duration: 00:30
Protests in Turkey over arrests of anti-Erdogan media
Turkey criticised over arrests of anti-Erdogan media
Istanbul (Turkey) – 15 December 2014 08:32 – AFP (Stuart WILLIAMS, and Fulya OZERKAN in Ankara)
Turkey politics media rights
The Turkish government on Monday faced a barrage of criticism at home and abroad after over two dozen people were arrested in raids against media critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The swoop on Sunday chiefly targeted a newspaper and television station closely allied to the US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a one time close ally of Erdogan who has become his arch enemy.
Among a total of 27 people arrested in the nationwide raids were Ekrem Dumanli, the editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily newspaper which is closely linked to Gulen and Hidayet Karaca, the head of the pro-Gulen Samanyolu TV.
Also among the detainees were nine workers, including producer, director and scriptwriters, on a popular TV drama series Tek Turkiye (One Turkey) broadcast on Samanyolu TV.
Turkish television said that three people working for the TV series had been released overnight but 24 suspects were still being questioned by Istanbul police.
The state Anatolia news agency said the detainees were accused of a number of offences including “using intimidation and threats” to “form a gang to try and seize state sovereignty”, “forgery” and “slander.”
In an unusually strong joint statement, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn condemned the raids as “incompatible with the freedom of media”.
“This operation goes against the European values and standards Turkey aspires to be part of and which are the core of reinforced relations,” they added.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was “closely following” the developments.
“As Turkey’s friend and ally, we urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions do not violate these core values and Turkey’s own democratic foundations.”
US-based rights group Freedom House said the arrests appeared to be retribution against journalists who reported on government corruption.
“The sweeping charges against the journalists and others detained today is a threat to free expression in Turkey and to anyone critical of its government,” said Daniel Calingaert, executive vice-president of Freedom House.
– ‘Heavy blow to democracy’ –
The Zaman newspaper itself headlined, “Black day for democracy,” in black fonts. A picture on its front page of newspaper employees unfurling banners “Free press cannot be silenced.”
“Zaman will maintain its pro-democracy, pro-freedoms and peaceful approach without any fear as it has thus far done,” it said, warning that Turkey was being “dragged to a cliff”.
Thousands of journalists and supporters had gathered at the Zaman headquarters to give Dumanli a hero’s send-off as he was led away by plain clothes police.
There were also questions over the arrests of the team working on the “Tek Turkiye” drama which tells the story of an idealistic doctor who goes to work in the Kurdish majority southeast.
Pro-government media said they were linked to a terror group but opposition media claimed one arrested was just a former intern whose named had been picked off the credits.
Interestingly, commentator Abdulkadir Selvi in the pro-government Yeni Safak daily also criticised the arrests.
“I want to put it very clearly that the arrests of Zaman daily editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanli and STV’s Hidayet Karaca is wrong. I am objecting to the mistake, whoever made it,” Selvi wrote.
Hurriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan said raiding newspaper offices and arresting journalists dealt a “heavy blow” to democracy and freedom of expression.
– ‘Parallel state’ –
But Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the Sabah daily that the suspects were detained “not because of their journalism activities.”
“The details of the investigation will be clarified during the judicial process,” Davutoglu said.
Erdogan has accused Gulen, who is based in Pennsylvania, of running a “parallel” state using influence in the police, judiciary, media and schools.
The Turkish government has repeatedly asked Washington to extradite Gulen, 73, but to no avail.
The crackdown came almost a year to the day after Erdogan’s government was rocked by stunning corruption allegations that the authorities denied and blamed on Gulen.
The corruption probe — opened on December 17, 2013 — saw the arrests of dozens of leading businessmen and political figures close to Erdogan — then prime minister.
The last months have seen successive raids against suspected pro-Gulen elements in the police force, but this was the first time media had been so directly targeted.
As in almost all previous raids the details of the swoop were leaked by a mysterious Twitter user named Fuat Avni, rumoured to be a government official, before it was even carried out.