IPI urges Turkey to stop using anti-terror laws, financial agencies against media
AA photoThe Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) has called on the Turkish government to stop using anti-terror laws and financial agencies against journalists in the wake of police raids targeting a corporation and the arrests of two British journalists.
“We are extremely troubled by today’s news, which follows claims of an impending crackdown on news media outlets ahead of the Nov. 1 election,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said in a written statement on Sept. 1. “These raids appear to be an attempt to pressure Koza İpek to induce self-censorship in its media holdings. Coupled with the recent bringing of terrorism charges against two British journalists reporting on clashes in southeast Turkey between government forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), they seem to be the latest steps in a broad campaign to intimidate and silence critical journalism.”
The police raid in Ankara led by Turkey’s Financial Crime Investigation Board (MASAK) targeted 23 companies of Koza İpek, a corporation linked to the government’s ally-turned-nemesis Fethullah Gülen, for allegedly “giving financial support to the Fetullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) and conducting its propaganda.”
The group owns Kanaltürk and Bugün television stations, as well as daily Bugün.
“Turkey desperately needs not only reform of anti-terror laws, but recognition and respect by authorities for the absolutely vital role of free, independent media in a democracy,” Ellis said.
Ellis noted that IPI, in recommendations accompanying a special report issued in March, specifically called on Turkey’s government to end its use of financial regulatory agencies to pressure media outlets via raids such as those seen this morning.
IPI also called on Turkey to immediately free British journalists Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, as well as a fixer who was assisting them. The three were arrested last week in Diyarbakır as they filmed clashes between government forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the United States, the EU and Turkey label a terrorist organization.
However, a court on Aug. 31 ordered them to face charges for “engaging in terror activity” on behalf of the Islamic State and Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and for “intentionally aiding an armed organization.”
“These charges are completely absurd and should be dropped immediately,” Ellis said.
“The decision to detain the journalists was wrong, while the allegation of assisting the Islamic State is unsubstantiated, outrageous, and bizarre,” Amnesty International said in a statement while also demanding the trio’s release.