Nobel laureate novelist Orhan Pamuk on Saturday condemned the detention of prominent columnist brothers Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan, saying, “Turkey is rapidly becoming a state of fear and moving away from democracy.”
“I condemn the detention of Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan. Anyone who makes even a minor criticism of the government is being jailed on a pretext,” said Pamuk in a statement released over the weekend.
The Altan brothers were detained for “giving subliminal messages revealing the military coup” during a program on Can Erzincan TV on July 14. Nazlı Ilıcak, another participant of the program, was arrested on July 29 on terrorism charges as part of a probe into a failed coup on July 15.
Underlining his anger and disappointment about the situation Turkey is sliding into, Pamuk said:
“Aslı Erdoğan, Nazlı Ilıcak, Nuriye Akman, Necmiye Alpay and Şahin Alpay are well-known, beloved writers like Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan. Their ideas are closely followed by the people. All these writers should be released soon. If they need to be tried, it should be without detention. You can be sure that those insensible and pitiless practices create a very bad image of Turkey around the world.”
Ahmet Altan is a novelist and former editor-in-chief of the Taraf newspaper. The daily ran headlines that led to the Ergenekon and Balyoz coup plot investigations, which helped the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government diminish the role of the military in Turkish politics. After quitting Taraf, Ahmet Altan resumed writing harshly critical columns against the increasingly authoritarian AKP government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Mehmet Altan, a professor of economics at İstanbul University, is also a columnist known for his liberal views and criticism of the government amid increasing and unprecedented pressure on the media and dissident voices. He was recently targeted by pro-Erdoğan columnist Hilal Kaplan for not being dismissed from his position at the university at a time when hundreds of academics and teachers have been expelled from their posts as part of an investigation into the failed coup attempt.
The Altan brothers are the sons of the late Çetin Altan, a long-time columnist and leftist politician.
According to the P24 website as many as 120 journalists are now behind bars in Turkey.
President Erdoğan and the AKP government have turned their media crackdown into an all-out war against critical media members and outlets following the failed coup attempt of July 15.
The government has closed down more than 130 media organizations, including three news agencies, 16 TV stations, 23 radio stations, 46 newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishers since the failed military coup.
At least 2,308 journalists have lost their jobs since the July 15 failed coup attempt, according to a joint statement made by press associations on Friday.
The statement noted that 115 permanent press cards and 660 press cards have been canceled by the Prime Ministry’s Media Press and Information General Directorate (BYEGM) since the coup attempt.