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Arrest warrant issued for Sözcü license holder over Gülen links

Burak Akbay

Following the arrest on Friday of Sözcü daily reporter Gökmen Ulu and online manager Mediha Olgun, an arrest warrant has been issued for Sözcü’s license holder, Burak Akbay, who is believed to be abroad, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Saturday.

According to the story, a request from the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has been approved by an İstanbul court for the arrest of Akbay on charges of membership in the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15.

On Friday reporter Ulu and online manager Olgun were arrested for “knowingly and willingly helping the terrorist organization,” by an Istanbul court. A third employee, finance manager Yonca Yücekaleli, was released by the court.

An investigation was launched into Sözcü over a report on July 15 that showed where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was spending his holiday in Marmaris, the same day a failed coup attempt took place in Turkey.

Before he was detained at his home in İzmir’s Karşıyaka district, Ulu underlined that the holiday venues of political leaders are always newsworthy all over the world, adding that he also went to Erdoğan’s hotel during the coup attempt and covered his statement as well.

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 arrests 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.

CHP leader 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.

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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