‘Young, old, conservative, liberal’: Turkey in shock over journalists’ arrest

‘Young, old, conservative, liberal’: Turkey in shock over journalists’ arrest

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Turkish media are in a state of shock this weekend after the government arrested 17 journalists in recent days on terror charges and issued arrest warrants for dozens more, in what a press freedom group has warned is a “sweeping purge” of the sector.Turkey had already ordered the closure of more than 100 papers, broadcasters and publishing houses as part of a crackdown after the failed 15 July coup attempt, before sending police to round up reporters, columnists, a novelist and social commentators.The impact of those arrests was documented by US-based journalist and government critic Mahir Zeynalov, who was expelled from Turkey for his work two years ago and who took to Twitter to commemorate the work and reputations of the journalists arrested.

“Everybody was highlighting numbers and statistics, but nobody really explained who these people are,” he told the Observer. Some are personal friends, others celebrated within the profession and several are nationally famous.So he posted photos of each journalist, many at the moment of their arrest, each with a brief but powerful biography. The pen sketches are affectionate, sometimes teasing, but most end with a one-word reminder of the price they have paid for their work. “Arrested.”“Nuriye Akman. Give her a cup of coffee and she would ask the most amazing questions. Interview nerd. Arrested,” reads one, a heartfelt appeal not just to those who care about journalists but to anyone who struggles to get started in the morning without their caffeine.Others include a “rare Islamist sociologist”, a journalist who made his name investigating the country’s first coup, a satirist who went to jail “with head held high” and a journalist tortured in government jails in the 1980s.Taken together, they are a powerful indictment of an attack on an entire profession. Initially 21 were detained but four have been released.The oldest who has now been charged with “membership of a terror group”, according to Anadolu news agency, is a 72-year-old veteran critic of the government, publisher and former parliamentarian, Nazli Ilicak.“These journalists were diverse – young, old, conservative, left-wing, novelist, economist, military geek. This represented the wide variety of journalists being put in jail and proved that the broad spectrum of Turkish society is being silenced,” Zeynalov said.The Committee to Protect Journalists has warned of a “sweeping purge” of the media in Turkey.“Instead of channelling the overwhelming support it has received from across the political spectrum to unite the nation, the government is exploiting a failed coup to silence the critical press when Turkey most needs pluralistic media,” said Nina Ognianova, regional co-ordinator for the One of those who was freed, commentator Bulent Mumay, warned that the government was repeating past mistakes. Turkey has a chequered history on press freedom and was the world’s top jailer of journalists in 2012 and 2013. But the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has shrugged off international criticism of his post-coup crackdown, which has included a purge of the military, civil service, judiciary and education sector, the arrest of more than 18,000 people, telling the west to “mind its own business”.Zeynalov – who is from Azerbaijan, lived and worked in Turkey for many years and has a Turkish wife – has long been a thorn in the side of Turkish authorities and two years ago they expelled him for “posting tweets against high-level state officials”.
source: the Guardian

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