The International Press Institute (IPI)’s executive board has condemned “in the strongest possible terms” Turkish authorities’ move to silence what it called the country’s last remaining critical media outlet, the Cumhuriyet daily, following the closure of 15 Kurdish media outlets on Saturday, while it called for the release of all the daily’s detained journalists including IPI board member Kadri Gürsel.
Turkish police on Monday launched a massive operation against the Cumhuriyet newspaper, detaining Editor-in-Chief and IPI member Murat Sabuncu and a dozen other managers and journalists, including virtually all members of the newspaper’s executive board.
Officials later announced an arrest warrant for IPI executive board member and IPI Turkey National Committee Chair Gürsel, a columnist and editorial adviser at Cumhuriyet.
Gürsel was taken into custody Monday afternoon following a raid on his home and is currently being held at the Vatan Police Station in İstanbul.
The move against Cumhuriyet came two days after 15 Kurdish media outlets were closed down by a government decree on Saturday.
In a joint statement the 23 other leading global editors and publishers that make up IPI’s executive board described the moves against Cumhuriyet and Kurdish media as cementing the Turkish government’s control of news and information in the country.
“Let there be no mistake: We are watching the complete extinguishment of press freedom in Turkey before our eyes,” the board members said. “Having now fully discarded the rule of law, the Turkish government is removing the last critical voices from its path. Turkey’s international partners, who have tolerated President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s obvious authoritarian ambitions for far too long, cannot allow these latest actions to proceed with impunity. ”
“We call on the authorities to immediately release our colleague Kadri Gürsel, who is an incredibly courageous journalist and a tireless defender of the values that IPI has promoted for over 65 years. He must be freed, along with all our other IPI members and brave friends at Cumhuriyet and all other journalists detained in Turkey,” IPI said in a statement on Monday.
A failed military coup attempt on July 15 claimed the lives of more than 240 people and injured a thousand others. Dozens of media outlets in the country have been closed down and scores of journalists have been jailed by the government since the putsch.
According to a recent report from the Contemporary Journalists Association (ÇGD), 118 media outlets in Turkey were closed down, 184 journalists were detained, 56 journalists arrested, 866 journalists fired from their jobs and 620 journalists had their press cards cancelled during the July-September period.