Turkey Secures World Leadership With New Arrests of Journalists

Turkish journalists are seen paraded to the jail in this file photo.

Turkey has solidified its place as the world leader in the number of imprisoned journalists, with 35 more wanted for arrest in a new wave of crackdown on the media.

Prosecutors in Istanbul issued an arrest warrant for 35 journalists on Tuesday, including a columnist who had been an adviser to the country’s main opposition party. Anticipating such a crackdown, nearly half of these journalists had already fled the country.

By Tuesday afternoon, at least nine journalists were taken into custody. Most of these journalists either work for publications affiliated with the Gulen movement, a group Ankara accuses of being behind the coup attempt last month, or worked at some point during their career. The government maintains that the massive purge in the aftermath of the coup on July 15 is particularly targeting what they call Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETO), a term used to refer to Gulenists. But the new string of arrests on Tuesday also included journalists who have no public affiliation with the group.

One of them, Dincer Gokce, is an online editor for Hurriyet, a daily newspaper. Gokce’s Twitter feed showed he shared news reports from the web-site he edited, including his own reporting. He mostly posted stories about the post-coup crackdown on businesses, members of judiciary and the media. In one of tweets, he regrets the arrest of Asli Erdogan, Turkey’s renowned novelist, and recalls how he was scouring through bookstores in search of her books.

Another journalist taken behind bars on Tuesday was Alparslan Akkus, who was the chief editor of New York Times’ Turkey edition, and also worked for Sabah and Hurriyet dailies.

Murat Aksoy, longtime journalist and columnist, is also among those detained in Istanbul. He was also advising main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

In a dramatic scene, Turkish police broke into the house of Yavuz Baydar, a veteran journalist and Harvard’s Niemann fellow, but could not find him. Baydar is also the author of the latest press freedom report of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ).

With the latest arrests, the number of jailed journalists has risen to 116 as of Tuesday, surpassing China (49), Egypt (23) and Iran (19). More than a hundred journalists are wanted for arrest, most of whom are in hiding.