Longtime gov’t critic Sözcü newspaper slapped with $1.8 million tax fine for 2018

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Turkish opposition newspaper Sözcü was levied a tax fine of TL 14.5 million ($1.8 million) for the year 2018 over what the paper on Wednesday said in a front-page report were baseless accusations by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

“You will never succeed in preventing Sözcü from expanding even if you hand us tax fines, issue public advertising bans or throw us in jail,” the daily said, addressing the AKP government.

According to the report Turkey’s Press Advertisement Agency (BİK), a state body that distributes public sector advertisements among media outlets, issued a 10-day advertising ban on Sözcü for December 2020.

“The government-led oppression targeting Sözcü, which has always reported the truth without compromising its Kemalist editorial line, has been ongoing since the daily was founded [in 2007]. Despite all this intimidation and punishment, Sözcü has managed to stand tall. We won’t submit to anyone. You will not stop us. You will not silence us,” the daily said in the report.

Sözcü also said the paper paid the highest taxes among Turkey’s print press outlets, paying TL 6 million ($767,000) in 2018 and TL 10.5 million ($1.3 million) in 2019.

In December 2019 six journalists and one other employee of Sözcü were convicted of aiding the Gülen movement, the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP of masterminding a failed coup in 2016.

The government also labels the movement a terrorist organization, although Gülen and his followers strongly deny any involvement in the coup attempt as well as links to any terrorist activities.

The seven accused of supporting the coup through their work for the Sözcü newspaper were columnists Emin Çölaşan and Necati Doğru, the paper’s editor-in-chief Metin Yılmaz and its online edition’s managing editor Mustafa Çetin, online news editor Yücel Arı, financial manager Yonca Yücelan and journalist Gökmen Ulu.

Çölaşan and Doğru were sentenced to three years, six months in prison, while Yılmaz and Çetin received just over three years. Arı, Yücelan and Ulu were sentenced to two years.

Their sentences were upheld by a regional appeals court in İstanbul in October.

One of the leading jailers of journalists in the world, Turkey was ranked 154th out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in April.

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