'There is no rule of law in Turkey' - senior opposition journalist on Erdogan's media crackdown

The forced closure of print and TV media outlets leaves President Erdogan dangerously unaccountable, says journalist speaking on condition of anonymity


Alex Dymoke
Saturday 30 July 2016 15:50

Turkey's media crackdown is putting citizens at risk from extremist ideologies, a leading Turkish journalist told The Independent today, as it emerged 48 Turkish journalists have been arrested and 330 have had their accreditation revoked in the past week.

On Wednesday the President signed decrees ordering the closure of over 100 media organisations including 16 TV stations and 45 newspapers. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported 21 journalists are currently being detained in Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse where they face interrogation and up to 30 days pre-trial detention.

“It is now very difficult to find lawyers to defend critical journalists. There is no rule of law in Turkey,” Yusuf Yilmaz – not his real name – said. The journalist, who left Turkey just before the state of emergency was declared on July 20th, refused to be named out of concern for family still based in the country.

“It is now impossible for prosecutors and judges to make independent decisions because the Erdogan regime is in complete control of the state. Turkey is being Erdoganised,” said Yilmaz.

The crackdown is the latest phase in the ruling party's response to the attempted coup, during which 246 civilians were killed. 15,000 people, including 10,000 soldiers, have been detained as President Erdogan moved to clamp down on followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan blamed for the coup.

A vast network of banks, charities, schools, media companies and businesses make up the Gulenist movement, which promotes interfaith dialogue and Islam's compatibility with liberal democracy. Once a key ally of Erdogan, Gulen has been an enemy of the ruling AK Party since it brought corruption charges against the president's inner circle in 2013.

Turkish cleric and opponent to the Erdogan regime Fethullah Gülen was accused by Ankara of orchestrating the military coup attempt but he firmly denied involvement.

According to one poll 64% of Turks now believe the coup was orchestrated by Gulen and his followers.

“I did not support the coup, and neither did any of the other journalists who have been arrested,” said Yilmaz, who accuses Erdogan of using the failed military intervention to demonise his opponents. “If the coup was successful its leaders would have put me in jail. I was against the military intervention, it failed, but now the government is making its own coup, a civilian coup”.

“The more the Gulen movement and followers of a moderate interpretation of Islam are oppressed in Turkey, the more extremists will gain ground and promote their bloody ideology in the country. This is also worrying for the future of Turkey and relations with West.”

Yilmaz said: “There is a new young generation who believe Erdogan is a great leader, and they are ready to do anything for him. Now they have no opposition media to challenge him.”

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