Sözcü publishes blank daily to protest gov’t operation

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A person holds the latest copy of opposition daily newspaper Sözcü bearing a headline reading " May 19 Freedom of Press special edition" on a blank page on May 20, 2017 in Istanbul. Turkish authorities targeted on May 19, 2017 opposition daily Sozcu, seeking the arrest of the owner and detaining two employees as the crackdown on opposition media widened. / AFP PHOTO / YASIN AKGUL

The Sözcü daily on Saturday published a totally blank edition to protest detention warrants issued the previous day for its owner and three of its employees.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for owner Burak Akbay and reporter Gökmen Ulu as well as executives Melda Olgun and Yonca Kaleli 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.

The daily published a blank newspaper with the headline “May 19 press freedom special edition.”

On Friday leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu lashed out the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for the operation against the leading opposition newspaper: “We are faced with a dictatorial administration. The operation against Sözcü is an operation against Turkey.”

The European Union on Friday expressed concerns 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.

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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