Concerns over Turkish media freedom in aftermath of failed coup

With nearly 20,000 people detained and arrests continuing, there is rising concern the crackdown in Turkey after the July 15 failed coup is expanding to government critics and opponents, especially in the media.

Twenty-nine journalists have been imprisoned since the coup, and arrest warrants have been issued for dozens more.

Journalist Cafer Solgun, who worked for one of the more than 100 media outlets closed in the crackdown, struggles to understand why people like him are targeted.

“It was the coup plotters who were blinded with madness to bomb the Turkish parliament and attempt to seize power. But what relation can me, Cafer Solgun, and dozens of other journalists like me have to do with it?”

Gulen denies charges

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists all those being targeted are connected to the U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of using a secretive network of followers to carry out the coup attempt.

Turkish authorities argue Gulen used his large network of national and local media outlets to support the military take over bid. Gulen denies all charges of involvement. And the motives of the crackdown are being increasingly questioned.

Nina Ornianova of New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says the scale and scope of arrests, in particular in the media, leads to worrying conclusions.

“It goes far beyond what is necessary to preserve the security of the state. It seems like Mr. Erdogan and the AKP government, have being using this failed putsch to cleanse the media, state, and cleanse the country of dissenting voices.”

Ruling by decree

Such accusations are strongly denied by Ankara who say only media establishments and journalists are linked to Gulen have been targeted. Observers say that claim is broadly true with prominent mainstream media critical of the president being so far unaffected.

But Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas on Sunday criticized the detentions of pro-Kurdish and left-wing journalists. Turkey’s Western allies, too, are voicing concern.

These concerns have been angrily dismissed by President Erdogan, who said those critical of the crackdown are siding with the coup plotters.

Ayse Sozen Usluer, Erdogan’s foreign relations chief, defends the arrests and detentions, comparing the situation to that in the United States after the September 11th, 2001 terrorists attacks.

“After 9/11, I ask you, in Guantanamo were the people suspects or were they in prison in Guantanamo after the judiciary processes? They were suspects,’ he said. “That’s why these are the precautions being taken in Turkey at the moment.”

President Erdogan has granted himself emergency powers allowing him to rule by decree. Analysts say fears continue to grow that the crackdown could turn into a witch hunt against all critics.


(Photo: Brano Hudak/