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A demonstrator stands next to padlocks left by prisoners in Istanbul's Metris Prison during a protest against the arrest of journalists and press freedom advocates, June 24, 2016. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

Turkey arrests at least nine journalists

August 11, 2017 3:30 PM ET

New York, August 11, 2017--Turkish authorities should immediately free nine journalists police arrested yesterday on terrorism charges, and should release the dozens of journalists it has for months jailed on bogus similar charges, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Police detained the nine after the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office issued warrants for the arrest of 35 journalists and media workers on suspicion they are followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen.

Prosecutors allege the journalists and media workers use the mobile phone app Bylock, which Turkish courts consider evidence of membership in the Gülenist movement, or FETÖ, as the government calls it, according to the state Anadolu news agency. The government accuses Gülen of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" within Turkey that it blames for orchestrating the July 2016 failed military coup.

"The government of Turkey must stop its annihilation of all remaining opposition voices in the country," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "We call for the immediate release of all nine journalists detained yesterday, the scrapping of all 35 arrest warrants against media representatives; and the ceasing of the disturbing practice of citing the usage of encrypted messaging applications as evidence for alleged terrorism."

The journalists police arrested yesterday include: Muhsin Pilgir, a former reporter for the shuttered outlets Zaman and the Cihan News Agency; Ömer Faruk Aydemir, news editor for the right-wing İhlas News Agency (İHA); Sait Gürkan Tuzlu, an academic at Marmara University's journalism school; Cüneyt Seza Özkan, former news editor at Samanyolu TV, which the government ordered closed last year; Yusuf Duran; Ahmet Feyzullah Özyurt; Ahmet Sağırlı, who was until he was fired last week a columnist for the pro-government daily newspaper Türkiye; Mutlu Özay, a former reporter for Zaman; and Burak Ekici, the online editor for the leftist daily newspaper Birgün, according to the news website Bianet.

The journalists are charged with membership of the Fethullah Gülen community's "media network," Bianet reported.

When CPJ last conducted its annual census of journalists jailed around the world, Turkey jailed more journalists than any other country in the 25 years that CPJ has kept detailed records.

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