Turkish authorities target media in nationwide crackdown

New York, December 14, 2014–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today’s raids on media outlets in which police detained journalists and media workers on politicized anti-state charges. Among those detained today were Ekrem Dumanlı, editor-in-chief of Zaman, one of Turkey’s largest dailies, and Hidayet Karaca, chairman of the Samanyolu Broadcast Group, reports said.

“We are deeply concerned about the detention of journalists in Turkey in early morning raids today,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “While details are still emerging, this much is already known: Turkish authorities, who have a history of politicized prosecutions against the media, do not tolerate critical reporting. The heavy-handed actions this morning smack of political vengeance.”

Early today, Turkish authorities detained at least two dozen individuals–including journalists, television show producers, scriptwriters, and police officers–and accused them of conspiring against the Turkish state, according to reports by Turkish and international media. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that those targeted in the raid were acting against democracy and would be held accountable, the Turkish Anadolu Agency reported.

Chief Prosecutor Hadi Salihoğlu issued a statement today, accusing the detainees of conspiring to run a criminal organization that aims to produce false evidence. They were accused of “founding and being members of an armed terrorist organization” and “slander,” among other charges, he said.

The individuals are believed to have been detained on suspicion of being affiliated with the Hizmet movement, which is led by the U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, a former supporter and now critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to news reports. The reports said that today’s raids were in retaliation against those who publicly accused Erdoğan of corruption in December 2013. On Friday, Erdoğan referred to the 2013 corruption scandal as an attempt to overthrow the government and said that those conspiring against him would be brought down, according to Reuters and Turkish media.

In the last several years of Erdoğan’s term as prime minister, his administration targeted critical journalists and news outlets, CPJ research shows. With at least 40 journalists behind bars, Turkey was the leading jailer of journalists when CPJ conducted its annual census in December 2013. Dozens of imprisoned journalists were released during the year, but still face charges. In October, a CPJ delegation led by CPJ Board Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe, met with senior government officials, including Erdoğan who was elected president last August, and secured commitments from them to protect journalists under threat and reform laws incompatible with free expression.

“Once again, President Erdoğan has shown he will embrace extreme measures to silence dissident voices. He believes in a compliant press, not a free press,” said CPJ’s Rowe. “The people of Turkey deserve better.”

Before today’s roundup, Turkey was holding at least seven journalists in jail in relation to their work, according to CPJ research.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This alert has been corrected to reflect that Zaman is one of Turkey’s largest dailies–not the largest daily, as previously stated.