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Freedom House: Turkish government stifling media and dissent

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The US-based independent watchdog organization Freedom House said in a statement on Tuesday that Turkey’s government is attacking the press to a degree not seen since the military coup of 1980 and in the process is undermining the foundations of democracy.

In response to police raids on the houses of editors, executives and columnists for Cumhuriyet, one of Turkey’s of oldest newspapers, the detention of its editor-in-chief and several more journalists on Monday, and to another emergency order shutting down more media outlets over the weekend, Freedom House’s acting president Daniel Calingaert said that Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is demonstrating once again its utter disrespect for fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.

“By raiding Cumhuriyet and closing news agencies under the pretext of emergency rule, this government is demonstrating again its utter disrespect for fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. The United States should exert every effort to stop its NATO ally from becoming a dictatorship,” Calingaert said.

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.

The International Press Institute (IPI)’s executive board member Kadri Gürsel, who is also a columnist and editorial adviser at Cumhuriyet, was taken into custody Monday afternoon following a raid on his home. A detention warrant was also issued on Monday for Cumhuriyet’s former Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar, who was previously convicted of revealing state secrets in May and is now living in exile in Europe.

Over the weekend, the government used its powers under emergency rule to close 15 pro-Kurdish news outlets, including two news agencies and two national newspapers.

Freedom House statement said that Turkey is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2015, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016.

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 canceled during the July-September period.


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