Istanbul: nine more journalists arrested

By Antonella Napoli/ translated from Italian by Jessica Jacques

(Please find here the Italian version)

In recent days Istanbul’s public prosecutor has issued new arrest warrants. Among these are eleven journalists, only two of which have been released on bail. As they are considered to be supporters of Gülen, they risk penalties up to life imprisonment.

ByLock Logo The logo of the messenger app ByLock which the Turkish government considers a direct connection to the Gülen movement (picture: Wikimedia Commons)

The Turkish gag on the press is tightening and a further nine journalists have ended up in prison in the country. In recent days, the public prosecutor in Istanbul has issued new arrest warrants for 15 people. Among these are press workers involved in an inquiry into presumed links between local media and the network of Fethullah Gülen, who is accused by Ankara of being the brains behind the attempted coup of 15th July 2016. It was the Turkish news agency Anadolu which published the news on 17th August.

The previous week another 35 people had been arrested. All the suspects are said to have used the ByLock application, an encrypted digital messaging system which, according to the Turkish government, was also used by the conspirators behind the coup attempt.

From the eleven journalists who were taken from their homes or places of work by the police in the last two weeks, only two have been released on bail while the others have been detained, accused of “belonging to an armed terrorist organisation.” Among the arrested are Burak Ekici, responsible for the opposition daily newspaper "BirGun"’s website and Yasir Kaya, the ex-communications director of the football club Fenerbahçe’s television channel.

Risk of life imprisonment

The Istanbul tribunal confirmed their arrests in less than 24 hours. The risk for all of them – as they are considered supporters of Gülen- is to see themselves sentenced with penalties up to life imprisonment. Among those released is the ex-columnist of the “Turkiye” newspaper, Ahmet Sagirli.

This ‘purge’ on 15th August is only the latest in a long series of suspensions of Turkish media workers and it is not finished. In fact, a further 24 suspects, who may have fled abroad, are wanted. And so the number of journalists detained in prison in Ankara and Istanbul has risen to 170.

Meanwhile Germany has refused to extradite one of the suspected masterminds behind the failed coup d’état. On 16th August Turkey sent a diplomatic note calling for the arrest of Adil Oksuz, who has sought refuge in Frankfurt. Oksuz, believed to be the head of the air force unit which mutinied on the night of the coup attempt, was arrested the next day and then released, before all trace of him was lost. Oksuz is considered by the Turkish government to be one of the principal exponents of the Fetullah Gülen network in Turkey.

Tens of thousands labelled as "terrorists"

After the alleged attempted coup, aside from journalists, tens of thousands of people – from doctors, police agents and teachers, to university lecturers and soldiers – have been arrested and labelled as “terrorists” and expelled from the public sector. Amnesty International meetings and local activists, including the President Idil Eser, are also on President Erdoğan’s radar.

Articolo 21 (editor's note: FoX website) continues to follow the unfolding events and will not reduce its vigilance, monitoring and denouncing each action taken against press freedom in Turkey and the violations against human rights, which continue to occur amid indifference by much of the international community. 

This article has been produced in the scope of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom project, co-financed by the European Commission. Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso is responsible for the content of the article which does not in any way reflect the opinion of the European Union.