An indictment charging 11 journalists from the now-closed Karşı daily with membership in a terrorist organization, aiding a terrorist organization without membership in it and revealing the identities of public servants engaged in counterterrorism operations was approved by an İstanbul court on Thursday, the Diken news website reported.
The İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court also issued arrest warrants for five of them.
The Karşı daily published its first edition on Feb. 9, 2014 and was closed by its owner two months later.
The first editor-in-chief of the daily, Eren Erdem, a former Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy, was arrested on June 29 over alleged Gülen links.
The court ruled to conduct Erdem’s trial separately in today’s decision.
Among the charges highlighted by the prosecutor in the indictment, Karşı journalists were accused of interviewing a Twitter phenomenon called Fuat Avni, a well-known whistleblower who provided tips on corruption and unlawful government actions and was followed by over 2 million people.
In December 2013, a police investigation into the close circle of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on allegations of corruption and bribery was revealed to the public, after which the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government accused the Gülen movement of conducting a smear campaign to undermine its power.
Following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the movement was also accused of orchestrating the abortive putsch and designated as a “terrorist organization” by Turkish authorities.
The Karşı daily had adopted an editorial stance to help the movement’s efforts to “overthrow the AKP government,” the prosecutor claimed.
Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) show that 240 journalists and media workers were in jail as of July 24, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 179 were under arrest pending trial while only 61 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 144 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.