(Istanbul) – The Turkish government’s news media shutdown shows how the State of Emergency law is being used to deny the right to free speech beyond any legitimate aim of upholding public order today. The government ordered 131 newspapers, news agencies, publishers, television, and radio stations to close down.
The decree (no. 668) ordering the closures, published in the Official Gazette on July 27, 2016, comes after prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 89 journalists, media workers, and executives over two days. The closures and detentions demonstrate an accelerated campaign against media the government identifies as supportive of the Fethullah Gülen movement, which it blames for the violent coup attempt in Turkey on July 15.
“The government crackdown is on media outlets and journalists it accuses of being linked to the Fethullah Gülen movement, which it blames for the foiled military coup,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey director at Human Rights Watch. “In the absence of any evidence of their role or participation in the violent attempt to overthrow the government, we strongly condemn this accelerated assault on the media, which further undermines Turkey’s democratic credentials.”
The decree orders the closure of 45 newspapers, 15 magazines, 16 TV channels, 23 radio stations, 3 news agencies, and 29 publishers and distributors. Among them are the dailies Taraf and Özgür Düşünce newspaper, the Cihan News Agency, and Can Erzincan TV.
Earlier on July 27, media reported that an Istanbul prosecutor had issued an arrest warrant for 47 journalists, media workers and executives who worked for the daily Zaman newspaper before it was taken over by government-appointed trustees in March 2016. Among those detained were former Zaman columnists Şahin Alpay and Mümtaz’er Türköne.
On July 25, the daily Sabah newspaper reported that another Istanbul prosecutor had issued arrest warrants for 42 journalists working for various other media. Among those detained were Bülent Mumay, former online editor for Hurriyet newspaper and a columnist with Birgün newspaper, and Nazlı Ilıcak, most recently a columnist for the daily Özgür Düşünce. Several reporters for whom there is an arrest warrant have left Turkey, according to Sabah newspaper.