EU ‘worried’ about operation targeting Sözcü

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A woman shows a copy of Turkish opposition newspaper Sözcü, after the ultra-secularist daily came under investigation by Istanbul prosecutors, during a march to Anitkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, for the 'Ataturk, Youth and Sports Day' celebrations in Ankara on May 19, 2016. May 19 marks the 98th anniversary of the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence on May 19, 1919. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

The European Union on Friday expressed worries about an operation in İstanbul targeting the Sözcü daily.

“The EU is worried about the police operation conducted today in Istanbul targeting journalists of daily Sözcü and their staff members, and on the selective and arbitrary application of anti-terror legislation, which have a grave impact on freedom of expression,” Maja Kocijancic, EU spokesperson, said in response to a question concerning the operation against Sözcü on Friday.

Underlining that “any alleged wrongdoing or crime should be subject to due process and the right of every individual to fair trial needs to be respected,” Kocijancic said: “The EU has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as a candidate country, needs to respect democratic standards and practices, including in the area of freedom of expression and media.”

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has issued detention warrants for the owner of leading opposition newspaper Sözcü as well as three of its employees over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15.

Sözcü owner Burak Akbay and reporter Gökmen Ulu as well as executives Melda Olgun and Yonca Kaleli are accused of spreading propaganda on behalf of the Gülen movement.

On Monday, Cumhuriyet’s website editor Oğuz Güven, who was detained on May 12 for a report that appeared on the daily’s website about the recent traffic death of Denizli Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper in Turkey’s western province of Denizli, was arrested by an Istanbul court.

According to a report issued by the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) on Friday, some 123 Turkish journalists are fugitives abroad, while 159 of them were in jail as of the end of April.

Amnesty International recently projected the names of imprisoned Turkish journalists onto the facade of the Turkish Embassy in The Hague.

AI also launched a campaign on Twitter late in March to support jailed journalists in Turkey, calling for their release, with the hashtag #FreeTurkeyMedia.

Turkey is ranked 155th among 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 26.

If Turkey falls four more ranks, it will make it to the list of the countries on the blacklist, which has the poorest records in press freedom.

The US-based Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, named Turkey as among the countries that have a “not free” press, in a report released on April 28.

According to “Freedom of the Press 2017,” the Turkish government, using enhanced powers under a state of emergency, carried out a massive purge of media outlets accused of links to the attempted military coup in July.

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