Turkey: Stop the purge, restore human rights!

by Michelle Trimborn

The latest press freedom violation news coming from Turkey has journalists' passports being seized "as a precaution" against suspects. Turkish journalist Yavuz Baydar reports that now in Turkey, the rule is that a journalist is guilty until proven innocent, instead of innocent until proven guilty.

Turkish authorities may have cancelled thousands of journalists' passports, although an official number is not known, according to the same article by Baydar, reproduced in Index.

Baydar also writes that Kurdish journalist Şermin Soydan "is now charged with lifetime imprisonment stemming from a single news report... titled The Secret Document on Operation to Gever, which details the security operations in Yüksekova, in Hakkari province." With 21 pages, the indictment in Soydan's case goes as far as accusing her of being a member of a terrorist group.

In the aftermath of the coup attempt in Turkey last month, the country has been facing a frightening wave of arrests. Within two weeks, at least 131 media outlets had been shut down and many journalists were facing detention.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is on a mission to cleanse his country from individuals and institutions which allegedly undermine his power and have connections to the so-called Gülen movement. Thousands of soldiers and generals, judges, other civil servants and many academics have already been expelled and partly detained. In a recent rally, Erdoğan told the more than one million people gathered that he would support the return of the death penalty - outlawed in Turkey in 1984 - pending parliamentary approval.

The purge turns to the media

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom strongly condemns the proceedings against media workers, academics and other critical voices and the arbitrary wave of arrests. Media freedom in Turkey is not only endangered. Actions like this show that it is broken. The Centre calls upon the Turkish President to stop this purge and urges international bodies like the Council of Europe to react and hold persons accountable for the ongoing violations of media freedom and human rights.

After a first arrest warrant for 42 journalists was made public by government-friendly news outlet Sabah, the first detentions followed quickly. Among the journalists in detention are well-known colleagues including Nazlı Ilıcak and Bülent Mumay. Before his detention, Mumay told German newspaper taz in an interview that the Turkish government cannot bear any criticism. “This is probably the reason why I am on this list“, he stated. Bülent Mumay, former editor of Hürriyet (daily newspaper), is a popular and also critical commentator on Turkey in the international media.

However, the action has now turned from individual arrests to a systematic strike against government-critical media in general. Until the morning of 28 July, according to Turkish news agency Bianet, a total number of at least 131 media outlets have been shut down. Among them are news agencies like Cihan and the Cihan radio station, newspapers like Zaman and Today’s Zaman, magazines and publishing houses. The full list can be found here. This extensive action is the result of a state decree which was approved by the Turkish Parliament.

The attempted coup

On 15/16 July 2016, Turkish military forces started a coup against President Erdoğan that failed. Following this, the state of emergency was declared and a wave of arrests and dismissals, known in social media as #TurkeyPurge started immediately afterwards. According to several news agencies, at least 15,000 people have been detained during the last two weeks. In addition, many websites have been blocked and several public institutions have been (temporarily) closed down.

ECPMF is closely following the situation and aims to provide regular updates.

Staff writer Ana Ribeiro contributed to this report. Last update: 09.08.2016 at 14:30.

Creative Commons LicenseThis article is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
Source information: This article was originally published by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom –