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A Turkish journalist holding a banner during a protest on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul, on March 4, 2011. Photo by: AFP

Thousands protest in Istanbul demanding journalists’ release; about 500 protest in Ankara over lack of media freedom.

Journalists in Turkey marched in protest on Friday after police arrested 10 reporters and writers, detentions that prompted the European Commission to warn the EU candidate country over its democratic credentials.

Thursday’s arrests were ordered as part of a widening conspiracy investigation that government critics say is being used to hound them.

Two weeks ago three other journalists were jailed pending trial on charges of ties to a murky ultra-nationalist group known as Ergenekon, alleged to have plotted to overthrow the ruling AK Party government.

“The European Commission is following with concern the recent police actions against journalists,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said in a statement late on Thursday.

Several thousand people joined a protest march organized by journalists through central Istanbul on Friday, demanding the release of their colleagues. One placard indicated there were 61 journalists who should be freed.

“The free press cannot be silenced,” marchers chanted before switching to, “Damn the AKP dictatorship”.

The protest in the capital Ankara, was smaller, with about 500 mostly journalists protesting at a lack of media freedom under Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government. Some bound their mouths with black tape as they bore aloft placards.

In its progress report on EU-membership candidate Turkey, the European Commission had highlighted the high number of court cases against journalists. Many reporters are being investigated over their coverage of alleged plots to topple the government.

Democracy Debate

Hundreds of people, from military officers to academics and politicians are being tried in those cases, which reflect deep mistrust between the secular establishment and Erdogan’s AK.

Critics say the party has Islamist leanings and see the Ergenekon investigations as targeting opponents of the government. But Erdogan told reporters on Thursday evening the detentions had nothing to do with the government.

Fuele said freedom of expression and media were fundamental principles which should be upheld in all modern democracies.

Turkish journalists protesting in Istanbul, on March 4, 2011. Photo by: AFP

“As a candidate country, we expect Turkey to implement such core democratic principles and enable varied, pluralistic debate in public space,” he said.

“Turkey urgently needs to amend its legal framework to improve the exercise of freedom of the press in practice and in a significant manner,” he added.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told a news briefing the United States was monitoring the case, urging a transparent investigation and an independent, pluralistic media.

“We have concerns about trends in Turkey, as we have indicated publicly. We continue to engage Turkish officials on these developments and we will follow these cases very closely.”

The Ergenekon investigation had fuelled hopes at its outset of an end to the era of military coups, but Turkey was still waiting for an outcome after years of countless detentions, TUSIAD business association head Umit Boyner said.

Turkey’s military staged three coups between 1960 and 1980 and toppled another government in 1997. However its power has since been dramatically curbed under EU-inspired reforms and further military intervention is seen as highly unlikely.

“How much longer will we wait for democracy, transparency and justice to be achieved? What is the expiry date for the question of what this is all about?” Boyner said in a written statement to the state-run Anatolian news agency.

One of those arrested on Thursday, Ahmet Sik, is already on trial over a book he co-wrote about the Ergenekon investigation.

Sik was writing a book on links between the police and the Gulen Islamist movement, a draft of which was found by police in a raid on a website’s offices two weeks ago, media reports say.

Other International Reactions

Seven journalists have been arrested by police investigating an alleged plot to overthrow the Turkish government. They were among 10 people detained as part of an official inquiry into Ergenekon, an ultra-nationalist clandestine group accused of trying to launch a coup against the government headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Among those under arrest is Nedim Sener, named last year as an International Press Institute (IP) world press freedom hero. He works for the daily newspaper Milliyet.

Among the other journalists held after raids on their homes and offices were Ahmet Sik and four writers with the odaTV.com news website –Soner Yalçın, İklim Kaleli Bayraktar, Mümtaz İdil and Doğan Yurdakul.

Professor Yalçın Küçük, a writer who is a prominent critic of the governing party was also detained.

Dozens of Ergenekon suspects, including businessmen, retired military officers, journalists and academics, are currently in prison on terror and coup charges.

They are said to have been involved in a conspiracy in 2007 to create chaos in order to provoke a military coup.

IPI director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: “No journalist should face arrest, charges, imprisonment or any other form of harassment or intimidation for doing their job… We urge the authorities to release all of the journalists imprisoned because of their work.

“A flourishing, diverse, critical media is a cornerstone of any healthy democracy.”

The Turkish Journalists Association says that 58 of the country’s journalists have been imprisoned. A US state department spokesman,Philip Crowley, said last month that the US had “broad concerns about trends involving intimidation of journalists in Turkey.”

7 More Journalists Detained in Turkey

Published: March 3, 2011

ISTANBUL — Seven journalists were detained Thursday in connection with a long-running investigation into a murky network that prosecutors maintain has been plotting to overthrow the government, a case that critics have characterized as a pretext to neutralize dissidents.

The police raided the homes and offices of 11 people in Ankara and Istanbul. Among those detained were Nedim Sener, an investigative journalist for the newspaper Milliyet; Yalcin Kucuk, a writer who is a prominent critic of the governing Justice and Development Party; and Ahmet Sik, a journalist and academic who alleges that an Islamic movement associated with Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish-born cleric living in the United States, has infiltrated the country’s security forces.

Mr. Sener and Mr. Sik were defiant as police officers took them into custody at their homes before television cameras. “Whoever touches it gets burned!” Mr. Sik shouted, referring to the Gulen movement. Mr. Sener’s neighbors decorated his Istanbul building with Turkish flags to protest his detention.

Four journalists with an anti-government Web site, OdaTV, were also detained. A few weeks ago, the authorities raided the Web site’s offices and arrested the site’s owner, its news editor and a writer.

The arrests are the latest in a years-old investigation into purported plots to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government after his Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002, unnerving the country’s secular elite with its Islamic roots. Dozens of current and former military personnel, as well as intellectuals and politicians, have been arrested in connection with various plots that prosecutors say were conducted under the auspices of a network called Ergenekon.

Leaders of Turkey’s armed forces have denied that any military-led plot existed. Critics of the government say the investigation has become a pretext for punishing opponents of the government.

Mr. Erdogan said Thursday that the case would proceed in accordance with the law. “Regarding today’s detentions; as we’ve always said, these are not things that happen upon our orders,” he said in a televised statement from Ankara. “The only thing I want to say is that these processes should be concluded as soon as possible.”

The head of the Ankara Bar Association, Metin Feyzioglu, called the raids illegal, given what he characterized as a lack of clear allegations. “These search warrants are against the law,” he said in a televised statement in front of Mr. Kucuk’s office in Ankara. “Everyone can be subject to these search warrants based on abstract reasons, without specific accusations,” he said.

The Turkish Journalists Association says 58 journalists in the country have been imprisoned. A United States State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, said last month that the United States had “broad concerns about trends involving intimidation of journalists in Turkey.”

Euractiv: Füle slams Turkey on media freedom

Published: 04 March 2011

Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle expressed concern yesterday (3 March) over arrests of journalists in EU hopeful Turkey. Seven journalists have been arrested in an alleged plot to overthrow the government. EurActiv Turkey contributed to this article.


EU hopeful Turkey ranked a lowly 138th among 178 countries covered by a recent survey called the ‘2010 Press Freedom Index‘, published by ‘Reporters Without Borders’.

The countries en route to EU accession rank as follows: 2) Iceland; 47) Bosnia and Herzegovina; 62) Croatia; 68) Macedonia; 80) Albania; 85) Serbia; 92) Kosovo; 104) Montenegro; 138) Turkey.


News:Media freedom declining in enlargement countries

News:Mass indictments in Turkey over alleged coup d’état

”The European Commission is following with concern the recent police actions against journalists, including the detention today of Nedim Şener, Ahmet Şık and others and the arrests last week of ODA TV site administrators Soner Yalçın, Barış Terkoğlu and Barış Pehlivan,” Füle said in a statement.

The commissioner recalled that the EU executive highlighted in its report on Turkey the high number of court cases against journalists and undue pressure on the media, which undermines press freedom.

“Turkish law does not sufficiently guarantee freedom of expression in line with the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights,” Füle said, reminding that freedom of expression and freedom of the media are fundamental principles for all modern democracies.

According to press reports, the journalists arrested are part of an official inquiry into an alleged plot to undermine the Islamist-rooted government and trigger a military coup, called the Ergenekon conspiracy.

Dozens of Ergenekon suspects are in prison but it often takes months for them to reach trial.

Turkish journalists protest crackdown


ANKARA, Turkey Several thousand demonstrators, some covering their mouths with black ribbons, protested Friday against the detention of eight journalists in a case that has drawn expressions of concern from Western governments and international media rights groups.

The arrests Thursday reflect the widening division between the government and its critics over a long-running investigation into an alleged conspiracy to topple the Islamic-rooted government.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says prosecutors are stripping away the vestiges of authoritarian rule in Turkey, but opponents counter that many of the more than 400 suspects have been targeted in a bid to muzzle dissent and undermine Turkey’s secular legacy.

On Friday, members of labor unions, political parties and non-governmental organizations joined hundreds of journalists in Istanbul and Ankara. They shouted slogans demanding press freedom after police detained eight journalists and two other people for links to the alleged coup plot.

The larger group was in Istanbul, where protesters carried a giant Turkish flag on a main pedestrian thoroughfare.

Some journalists in Ankara marched with their mouths covered by ribbons that signified the alleged clampdown by the government on expression.

“Don’t remain silent or you will be next,” journalists in Ankara shouted as they marched toward the Justice Ministry. They also carried a banner that read: “Everyone needs free press.”

The government says the decision to detain the journalists was taken by independent judicial authorities.

“Of course, this is not nice,” Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said. “The journalists should not be jailed or prosecuted for their writings, but none of us have armor if we violate laws.”

“We are disturbed to see renewed heavy-handed treatment of journalists who reported facts that do not suit the government,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement Friday.

Taha Akyol, a columnist for Milliyet newspaper, told CNN-Turk television that the targeting of journalists was “causing unrest within the society and gives the impression that the opposition is being crushed.”

Turkey, meanwhile, continued an offensive against Internet sites, causing further concerns over censorship.

A prosecutor on Friday charged the owners or editors of four news websites with “insulting public officials,” for posting excerpts of a high court judge’s alleged conversation, the Anatolia news agency said. They could face up to two years in prison if found guilty.

A court also has ordered access to the blog site Blogspot.com closed after a satellite television company, which owns the broadcasting rights to Turkey’s football league, complained about league games being shown on some blogs, CNN-Turk television said Friday.

More than 9,000 sites, most of them adult websites, have been banned in Turkey according to Engelli Web, a site that monitors blocked pages.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on Thursday said the United States had concerns about trends in Turkey and would monitor ongoing arrests of journalists and “urge that any investigations or prosecutions proceed in a transparent manner.”

“We will continue to engage Turkey and encourage an independent, pluralistic media,” Crowley told reporters. “It is critical to a healthy democracy.”

Thursday’s detentions were a follow up to a raid last month on the anti-government news website Oda TV, and those detained included two investigative journalists, Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener. The suspects are accused of having links with the so-called Ergenekon network that is accused of conspiring to topple the government in 2003.

Sik is already on trial for a book he co-authored about the Ergenekon case. Sener is known for a book about alleged intelligence failures that he claims led to the 2007 murder of Hrant Dink, an ethnic Armenian journalist.

The Vienna-based International Press Institute said it was highly concerned over the detentions of journalists.

“No journalist should face arrest, charges, imprisonment or any other form of harassment or intimidation for doing their job which can include expressing critical views,” IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said in an online statement Thursday.

Read more: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2011/03/04/1392678/turkish-journalists-protest-crackdown.html#ixzz1Fe7CdNeA

Turkish media in uproar over journalists’ detention


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ISTANBUL, March 4, 2011 (AFP) – Turkish journalists took to the streets Friday after the detention of more colleagues in a controversial coup probe, raising the issue of press freedom in the EU-aspirant country.
Hundreds marched in central Istanbul as activists, intellectuals and popular artists joined the members of the press, venting their anger at the ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“Free the journalists!” and “AKP, take your hand off the press,” their banners read as some chanted “Down with the AKP dictatorship.”Backed by opposition lawmakers, scores of journalists marched also in the capital Ankara, some wearing black bands over their mouths, as passers-by showed their support by applauding.
“Who is next?” and “No to journalists in prison,” some banners read.
Raiding homes early on Thursday, police detained 10 people, most of them journalists, drawing condemnation from the EU and international media watchdogs.
It was the latest episode in a long-running probe into Ergenekon, a purported secularist network that allegedly plotted assassinations and bombings to destabilise the AKP and prompt a military coup.
Critics charge the investigation, afoot since 2007, has degenerated into a campaign to bully critical media and the opposition.
“Give us an explanation,” the liberal Radikal daily called from its front page Friday, and the anti-government Cumhuriyet headlined: “Enough is enough.”Even the Taraf newspaper, which has strongly backed the probe, raised doubts over the intent of investigators.

“If a credible explanation is not offered, the AKP government will face the darkest period in its political existence. They had better realise the situation is so serious that it cannot be passed over with shallow talk,” chief editor Ahmet Altan wrote.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected any responsibility Thursday, voicing hope the judiciary would “complete the process speedily.”Among those detained was Nedim Sener, a prominent journalist who last year received the International Press Institute’s “World Press Freedom Hero” award for a book that put blame on the security forces for the 2007 murder of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
Newspapers expressed shock also over the detention of Ahmet Sik, credited with being among the first to report that some generals had plotted to oust the AKP, months before the Ergenekon probe had even began.

All detained journalists are known critics either of the investigation or the police, as were three colleagues from an opposition website who were arrested last month.

Other newsmen are among dozens of suspects already in jail pending trial over Ergenekon, which, prosecutors argue, is a terrorist group with a media wing to sway public opinion.

The probe, which has resulted in the discovery of several weapons caches, was initially hailed as a success in a country where the army has unseated four governments since 1960.

But its credibility waned as police began arresting intellectuals known as AKP opponents and some suspects accused police of fabricating evidence.
The AKP has carried out a series of democratic reforms to boost Turkey’s EU bid, but has come under mounting fire recently for growing authoritarian.

Erdogan often attacks the critical press and Turkey’s largest media group, Dogan, is struggling under a giant tax fine, slapped on it in 2009 after a row with the government over corruption allegations involving AKP members.


Turkish police search homes of journalists

Turkish police on Thursday raided the homes of several people, including journalists and a former intelligence officer, as part of a crackdown on an alleged secularist network accused of conspiring to topple the Islamic-rooted government.

The Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey —

Turkish police on Thursday raided the homes of several people, including journalists and a former intelligence officer, as part of a crackdown on an alleged secularist network accused of conspiring to topple the Islamic-rooted government.

The raids come two weeks after a court jailed three journalists of a dissident website Oda TV in the case. Critics say press freedom is under attack in the country and the United States has expressed concern over media freedom. But Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denied any government attempt to silence journalists.

The European Union and the Committee of Protect Journalists have accused Turkey of suppressing critical news and commentary on the alleged anti-government conspiracy. About 400 people, including journalists, politicians, academics and retired military officers are on trial accused of being part of the so-called Ergenekon network, which allegedly tried to overthrow Erdogan’s government in 2003.

Police were searching computers, notes and books of the journalists, including Ahmet Sik who already faces prosecution for co-writing a critical book about the crackdown on the so-called Ergenekon network, NTV television said.

Police had reportedly discovered a draft book by Sik that allegedly focuses on the religious groupings within the police force on the hard disk of one computer seized in last month’s raid on Oda TV, several news websites said.

Nedim Sener, an investigative reporter for Milliyet and Posta newspapers, and Dogan Yurdakul who occasionally writes for Oda TV, were among the targeted journalists along with a renowned hardline secularist and leftist writer Yalcin Kucuk, NTV said.





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