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Foreign, Domestic Media Under Fire in Turkey

  • Dorian Jones

FILE - Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the arrest of three prominent activists for press freedom, in central Istanbul, Turkey, June 21, 2016. Arrest warrants for 42 Turkish journalists were issued Monday in connection with the failed coup July 15, 2016.

FILE - Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the arrest of three prominent activists for press freedom, in central Istanbul, Turkey, June 21, 2016. Arrest warrants for 42 Turkish journalists were issued Monday in connection with the failed coup July 15, 2016.

The Turkish government has turned its attention to journalists in the latest expansion of its purges after a failed coup July 15.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's chief of international relations, Ayse Sozen Usluer, has released a file of foreign news coverage, indicating what she says is support of — or failure to oppose — the uprising.

Usluer says much of the foreign media failed the democracy test.

"Some coverage in the media is shameful — disgraceful, actually,” she said. “It seems they can’t leave the politics aside and condemn the coup openly. The international press have shown an anti-Erdogan attitude in this matter.”

As evidence, she quoted “some of the headlines you may find after a quick scan in the international media,” including "Erdogan gained power, democracy weakened," "Coup is gift to Erdogan" and "Erdogan more powerful after the failed coup."

U.S.-based Fox News featured prominently in the government file. Many of its items were tweets, including a comment by one contributor, retired Colonel Ralph Peters, declaring that "if the coup succeeds, the Islamists lose and we win." Articles from leading newspapers from around the globe were also cited.

Dozens of arrest warrants issued

Arrest warrants for 42 Turkish journalists were issued Monday. Among those was a warrant for prominent columnist and commentator Nazli Ilicak, who was detained Tuesday.

Turkish journalist Nazli Ilicak, center, a well-known commentator and former parliamentarian, is escorted by a police officer, right, and her relatives, at left and rear, after being detained and brought to a hospital for a medical check in Bodrum, Turkey, July 26, 2016.

Turkish journalist Nazli Ilicak, center, a well-known commentator and former parliamentarian, is escorted by a police officer, right, and her relatives, at left and rear, after being detained and brought to a hospital for a medical check in Bodrum, Turkey, July 26, 2016.

Political columnist Semih Idiz of Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper says the arrest of a prominent writer like Ilicak will fuel fears that the government crackdown is extending far beyond the coup plotters.

"I think the risk is very real,” Idiz said. “We learned that a prominent journalist, Nazli Ilicak, has been arrested today. She was always with the Islamists, and yet this thing has expanded to take her in on the assumption that she is part of the Gulen outfit. It is a very dangerous situation because we have emergency rule, which means rule by decree, in effect, and the suspension of civil liberties."

Two years ago, Ilicak was fired from the pro-government Sabah newspaper for her criticism of high-level corruption.

State of emergency

Human Rights Watch strongly criticized Tuesday what it called the arbitrary nature of the powers under emergency rule, warning that the powers are being used beyond those involved in the coup plot. The state of emergency was introduced last week, for three months.

But Erdogan insists the crackdown is aimed only at supporters of retired imam Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States. Erdogan accuses Gulen of using his large network in Turkey to initiate the coup attempt, a charge Gulen denies.

Observers say the crackdown has closed several news websites critical of the government, but with no connection to Gulen.

Idiz warns that such actions threaten to isolate the government at a critical moment.

To avoid that, Idiz says, the government must acknowledge that “it not only got support from the opposition on July 15, but also that the opposition media that the government has been very critical [of] played a crucial role in this [support]."

For example, a news network that Erdogan has been strongly critical of had broadcast his appeal for people to go into the streets to challenge the coup, a move widely seen as crucial to defeating the attempted military takeover.

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