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[UPDATE] 2 Sözcü daily employees arrested over alleged Gülen links

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Sözcü daily reporter Gökmen Ulu and online manager Mediha Olgun, who were detained in an operation last week, have been arrested 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.

A third employee, finance manager Yonca Yücekaleli, was released by the court.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants last week for Sözcü’s license holder, Burak Albay, and three employees. Akbay was reported to be abroad.

A report in the Cumhuriyet daily said last week that the reason for the investigation into Sözcü was the publication of a report on July 15 that aimed at revealing the whereabouts of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was in the western holiday resort of Marmaris at the time.

They are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization and committing crimes on behalf of the organization” and “armed insurgency against the Turkish government.”

Representatives of bar associations, the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) and the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) along with main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies, journalists and readers protested the detentions in front of the Istanbul Courthouse on Friday.

The Sözcü daily last Saturday published a totally blank edition with the headline “May 19 press freedom special edition” to protest detention warrants issued the previous day for its owner and three of its employees.

Leader of the main opposition 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,” he said.

The European Union last week expressed concerns about the 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.

According to a report issued by the TGC on Friday, 123 Turkish journalists are fugitives abroad, while 159 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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