Reactions grow as concerns over possible gov’t seizure of major dailies persist

As both domestic and international reactions are growing over a government whistleblowerand’s claim that a plan is under way to detain many journalists and judicial members, and even to seize Turkeyand’s major newspapers as part of an operation to shut the voice of the opposition, the concerns that the claims are true have gained strength with more tweets posted by the whistleblower on Tuesday.
With just a week before the countryand’s June 7 parliamentary election, prominent Twitter whistleblower Fuat Avni claimed early on Monday that there will soon be a mass detention of journalists and members of the judiciary as part of government efforts to muzzle media outlets that are free, independent and critical. The whistleblower claimed said some 200 people will be detained in a major sweep that was ordered by embattled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is reportedly furious over the publication by the Cumhuriyet daily of photos of weapons being transported to radical groups in Syria by trucks run by Turkeyand’s intelligence organization.
Among those critical journalists planned to be detained are Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanli Todayand’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bandulent Kenei Todayand’s Zaman Managing Editor Celil Saiir Todayand’s Zaman columnist Emre Uslu Turkish Review magazineand’s Editor-in-Chief Kerim Balci Bugandun TV Ankara representative Faruk Mercan Bugandun dailyand’s Washington bureau chief Adem Yavuz Arslan Bugandun daily columnist Nazli Ilicak former Taraf daily Editor Yasemin andcongar former Taraf daily Editor-in-Chief Ahmet Altan and Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dandundar.
The politically motivated investigations not only include journalists but also the corporate entities of the Zaman, Samanyolu and Bugandun media outlets. Zaman is the countryand’s largest circulated national daily.
The concerns that a large number of journalists — who are mainly critical of policies of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and those being sought by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) polices — will possibly be targeted via the large-scale government- orchestrated operation ahead of the election gained strength with Fuat Avniand’s new tweets posted on Tuesday.
The whistleblower claimed that all units in the police force and the judiciary are being prepared for the large-scale operation, adding that the Cosmic Study Group (KandcG) has been holding successive meetings in the last two days.
The unit named the KandcG — a name reminiscent of the West Study Group (BandcG) operating at the time of the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup — was allegedly established by the government to coordinate the police operations designed by the government to stamp out the so-called and”parallel structureand” within the state.
Writing in a tweet that because this unit does not make any mistakes, it briefs Erdogan and former Interior Minister Efkan Ala about every detail of the operation, Fuat Avni further claimed: and”Yezid poured out orders during a meeting that Selami Altinok [Istanbul police chief] held at the courthouse [Istanbul Courthouse] with the police chiefs of the antiterrorism unit, the organized crime branch and the security branch.and”
Fuat Avni does not mention Erdoganand’s name directly in hisher tweets but uses the word and”Yezidand” while referring to him. Yezid is a reference to the Umayyad caliph, whom according to Islamic belief allowed his opponent Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, to execute in the Battle of Karbala.
Fuat Avni further wrote that the prosecutors who have been assigned to conduct the operation in question have already ordered the authorities to spare the necessary places in custodial prisons for those who are to be detained as part of the possible government-initiated police operation.
The whistleblower said Erdogan told the authorities that the operation must and”absolutelyand” be conducted before the upcoming elections to and”prevent the dissident media outlets which will cover the election.and” Fuat Anvi further wrote that the authorities cannot decide on the list of those who will be detained, which is why the time of the operation is being postponed, adding that Erdogan warned the authorities that everybody who is critical of the government should be intimidated via this planned operation.
These claims put forward by Fuat Avni, whose revelations have mostly proven to be true, have been attracting more and more strong reactions both from Turkey and the globe.
h2 EU, journalist associations lambast Erdoganand’s alleged plan to seize Zamanh2 Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) President Sir Graham Watson warned the European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, about Erdoganand’s alleged plans to seize the Zaman Media Group, one of the few independent media outlets in the country.
and”As I am sure you are aware, signals from Turkey suggest that President Erdogan is about to seize the only major opposition newspaper, Zaman, which has links to the Gandulen movement,and” Sir Graham said in a letter to Mogherini, the high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy.
He also called on Mogherini to intervene to warn Erdogan against suppression of dissent in this way. Mentioning that Turkey is still officially a candidate for EU membership, he said, and”Such behavior should not pass without comment.and”
Anca Paduraru, a press officer at the European Commission for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, told Todayand’s Zaman that the commission pays a lot of attention to events such as Erdoganand’s alleged plan. andquotFreedom of expression is one of the essential foundations of the European Union. The EU is committed to respecting the freedom and pluralism of the media, as well as the right to information and freedom of expression,and” she said.
andquotThe state and maturity of democracy in a country can be judged based on the state of the freedom of the media and respect for it.
and”We have repeatedly called for a better enabling environment for the freedom of expression and press, in line with Article 10 of the European Convention for Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
and”The right to inform and to be informed is of outstanding importance in electoral periods and we are closely following developments pertaining to the enjoyment of these rights,and” she added.
h2 Nigerian journalists urge WAN-IFRA to condemn Turkeyh2 The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) asked the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) to condemn the suppression of media freedom in Turkey in a letter submitted to the organization last Friday.
Suleiman Uba Gaya, the vice president of the NGE, signed the letter in which the NGE urged Turkey to and”saveand” fellow journalists by condemning President Erdogan. In the two-page letter, the NGE cited examples of the most recent attempts in Turkey to oppress the media, including Ankara Prosecutor Serdar Coikunand’s request asking that media outlets critical of the government not be given access to the state-owned satellite connections, the arrests of judges who decided to release imprisoned journalist Hidayet Karaca and the probe into the Handurriyet daily based on a headline.
and”All democratic forces should be mobilized to prevent the last bastions of free speech in Turkey and stop the government from silencing the critical media,andquot the NGE stated in its petition to WAN-IFRA on the eve of the worldand’s largest media congress in Washington. Uba is expected to read his letter during the conference, which started on May 31.
h2 Justice Minister denies operation claimsh2 When asked by journalists about Fuat Avniand’s claims during an event in Ankara on Tuesday, Justice Minister Kenan ipek said he finds the fact that the tweets of Fuat Avni, and”whose identity is not even certain,and” have hit the headlines of Turkish newspapers very saddening. and”How can such a thing ever happen?and” the minister asked the journalists. Ilicak, whose name is also among those to be detained, said she does not give much possibility for this operation to be conducted before the election, but added that if the AK Party comes to power alone with the upcoming general election, this operation will be performed with 100 percent probability. She added that if such an operation is conducted, Turkey will be dragged into a country with no critical voice and will regress years. Emphasizing the significance of the upcoming election, Ilicak said she takes Fuat Avniand’s claims very seriously.
Main opposition Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP) andOzgandur andOzel also commented on the issue on Tuesday. He said he doesnand’t think this operation will be conducted before the election, but added: and”No one can be 100 percent sure this operation will not be performed before the election, because we are talking about the AK Party.and” andOzel went on to say that the AK Party, which sees its votes decreasing each day, is now in a state of panic and lashing out at any critical person around.
During a press conference in izmir on Tuesday, opposition nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Chairman Ahmet Kenan Tanrikulu said such an operation will be a move that aims at prevent the elections from being held in a democratic atmosphere. He warned that the election safety in under threat, highlighting that the Cihan news agency is an institution that conveys the election results to the people in the quickest way via its system, which is why the government is planning to seize it so that the results may be manipulated in favor of the ruling party.
Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ertuirul Kandurkandcandu said his party is in full solidarity with journalists, saying that journalists need to be able to express their ideas freely and easily, regardless of whether those ideas are correct or not, but added that the AK Party government prefers to put pressure on journalists to intimidate them as part of its authoritarian way of administration. Kandurkandcandu said he hopes that Turkey will get rid of and”this despotism being applied by the AK Party on the peopleand” in the June 7 election. Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Cem Toker also lashed out at the government over the operation claims. Speaking to Todayand’s Zaman, Toker said Erdogan wants to establish a dictatorship that will be similar to the dictatorial regimes in the Middle East. He further said that Erdogan has eliminated the secularism, freedoms, democratic institutions and ultimately the judiciary in the country, warning that Turkey is on the brink of a catastrophe.
h2 Harsh criticism from bar association presidentsh2 Adana Bar Association President Menganducek Gazi andcitirik said these recent claims are very worrying and saddening. He said people should be able to enjoy their rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and international conventions, but added: and”Turkey has been undergoing a period when even the Constitution is being suspended, let alone people using their fundamental rights and freedoms.and”
Noting that the judiciary has been fully under the influence of the political power, andcitirik said the Turkish judiciary has been turned into an institution that performs what the government orders them to do. and”No one can say there is an independent judiciary in Turkey.and” Emphasizing that freedom of the press is the cornerstone of democracy, andcitirik said the government tries to construct an atmosphere of fear across the country and has been trying to intimidate the critical voices via successive operations being performed by those judicial members under its full influence.
Bitlis Bar Association President Enis Gandul also expressed concerns similar to those put forward by andcitirik, saying that such an operation to be performed before the election will pull the country into chaos. and”If such a plan is under way, they should give up on it immediately,and” Gandul warned. and”Such a thing, if it happens, will be a major coup against the Turkish democracy,and” he further added.
izmir Bar Association President Aydin andOzcan also commented on the operation claims. He said any restriction being put on the press will mean a clear violation of peopleand’s right to information and freedom of expression, which are among fundamental rights and freedoms. and”Any restriction on the press cannot be acceptable,and” he emphasized.
Commenting on Fuat Avniandrsquos claims late on Tuesday as he responded to questions by reporters in Adana, main opposition Republican Peopleandrsquos Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kiliandcdaroilu also said he hopes the government does not do such a mad thing.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman