Friday, August 5, 2016

Emma Graham-Harrison - ‘Young, old, conservative, liberal’: Turkey in shock over journalists’ arrest

Turkish media are in a state of shock this weekend after the government arrested 17 journalists in recent days on terror charges and issued arrest warrants for dozens more, in what a press freedom group has warned is a “sweeping purge” of the sector.

Turkey had already ordered the closure of more than 100 papers, broadcasters and publishing houses as part of a crackdown after the failed 15 July coup attempt, before sending police to round up reporters, columnists, a novelist and social commentators. The impact of those arrests was documented by US-based journalist and government critic Mahir Zeynalov, who was expelled from Turkey for his work two years ago and who took to Twitter to commemorate the work and reputations of the journalists arrested.

“Everybody was highlighting numbers and statistics, but nobody really explained who these people are,” he told theObserver. Some are personal friends, others celebrated within the profession and several are nationally famous. So he posted photos of each journalist, many at the moment of their arrest, each with a brief but powerful biography. The pen sketches are affectionate, sometimes teasing, but most end with a one-word reminder of the price they have paid for their work. “Arrested.”

“Nuriye Akman. Give her a cup of coffee and she would ask the most amazing questions. Interview nerd. Arrested,” reads one, a heartfelt appeal not just to those who care about journalists but to anyone who struggles to get started in the morning without their caffeine. Others include a “rare Islamist sociologist”, a journalist who made his name investigating the country’s first coup, a satirist who went to jail “with head held high” and a journalist tortured in government jails in the 1980s.

Taken together, they are a powerful indictment of an attack on an entire profession. Initially 21 were detained but four have been released. The oldest who has now been charged with “membership of a terror group”, according to Anadolu news agency, is a 72-year-old veteran critic of the government, publisher and former parliamentarian, Nazli Ilicak.

“These journalists were diverse – young, old, conservative, left-wing, novelist, economist, military geek. This represented the wide variety of journalists being put in jail and proved that the broad spectrum of Turkish society is being silenced,” Zeynalov said. The Committee to Protect Journalists has warned of a “sweeping purge” of the media in Turkey...Read more: