Turkey’s Crackdown on Criticism Continues as Journalists, 10K Civil Servants Arrested

by | Nov 1, 2016

This article was originally published at Underground Reporter.


Istanbul — A day after the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dismissed an additional 10,000 civil employees and shut down another 15 media outlets inside Turkey, it was reported Monday that Turkish police have arrested roughly a dozen journalists at one of principle publishers critical of Erdoğan’s crackdown.

“Turkish police detained the editor and senior staff of a leading opposition newspaper on Monday over its alleged support for a failed coup in July,” writes Reuters, “in a move described by a top EU politician as the crossing of a red line against freedom of expression.”

That E.U. politician, Parliament President Martin Schulz, speaking via Twitter, additionally stated that “The ongoing massive purge seems motivated by political considerations, rather than legal and security rationale.”

To date, over 110,000 people have been either fired or suspended, and 37,000 have been arrested during Erdoğan’s ongoing consolidation of power.

The news agency raided, Cumhuriyet, is described by Reuters as “one of few media outlets still critical of Erdogan.” When asked to comment on his detention, one journalist, as he was being carted away, said: “I work for Cumhuriyet, isn’t that enough?”

Another employee, cartoonist Musa Kart, told reporters: “This is a comical situation. It is not possible for people with a conscience to accept this. You can’t explain this to the world. I am being detained solely for drawing caricatures.”

Over the past three and a half months, some 170 varied newspapers, magazines, and television stations have been shut down in Turkey — who, incidentally, is both a NATO member and a candidate for E.U. membership.

Monday’s news directly follows the revelation that 10,000 more government workers — among them “academics, teachers, health workers, prison guards and forensic experts” — had been sacked over the weekend, in a move made legal “through two new executive orders published on the Official Gazette late on Saturday.”

As highlighted by the BBC, the last edition published by Cumhuriyet’s senior staff featured a plain but highly appropriate headline:

“A few copies of Monday’s edition had been left at the gates of Cumhuriyet’s premises. The headline read simply: ‘Coup against opposition.’

“The story was about the suspension of thousands of civil servants and other laws introduced under emergency decrees. Only hours afterwards, the editor-in-chief and several writers were detained and arrest warrants issued for over a dozen of the paper’s executives.”

Erdoğan’s crackdown on free speech and journalistic license has riled some of his — formerly — staunch Western allies such the the United States, who purport to view freedom of expression as a paramount ideal.

The situation is complicated further by the fact that Turkey, under Erdoğan’s newfound boldness, is displaying an independent streak on Middle Eastern battlefronts that lends an element of uncertainty to those events, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

The complexity of it all was aptly characterized in another Monday article by Reuters:

“The unprecedented crackdown at home and his bellicose stance on the world stage have alarmed Western and some regional allies, who fear the NATO member and EU candidate nation is becoming an ever more unpredictable partner, and one over which they have decreasing leverage.”

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