Turkish authorities are now targeting Doğan Media Group for “terrorist propaganda,” only days after mobs attacked the offices of Doğan-owned Hürriyet Daily News.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesman İbrahim Kalın confirmed authorities are investigating Doğan, which owns Hürriyet and CNN Türk.
A pro-government publication complained to authorities that Hurriyet had published “uncensored photographs of dead Turkish soldiers.” The complaint also included an interview by CNN Türk with an activist who later joined the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a U.S.-designated terrorist group.
This is hardly the first time Doğan has faced legal trouble. Reuters reported:
In May, Dogan was suspended from state tenders after Erdogan accused its head, Aydin Dogan, of being a “coup lover” and described its media columnists as “charlatans”.
In 2009 Dogan Media was fined $2.5 billion for unpaid taxes, in what many critics saw as an attempt to crush media criticism of Erdogan, following its coverage of corruption allegations against figures close to Erdogan.
Following the tax bill, founder Dogan was forced to sell the group’s Milliyet and Vatan newspapers, the Star TV channel and other holdings.
Authorities spawned the investigation a day after they raided Turkish magazine Nokta after they published an illustration of Erdoğan taking a selfie next to a soldier’s coffin. The officers also seized remaining copies from the newsroom. Kalın warned reporters against insulting the president.
“It is never possible to consider insulting the presidential office within freedom of expression,” he said at a Tuesday press conference. “Attacking the presidential office to score small political goals with small political estimations is not politics. Trying to become the center of attention by attacking the presidency and our president’s personality and his family is not journalism. It is often just common activism or militarism.”
Erdoğan’s government has cracked down on media since 2014, even though the president declared in December that his country has the world’s freest press. Officers arrested three VICE News journalists in early September on “terrorism” charges due to alleged ties with the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Yet, evidence showed the journalists interviewed members of the PKK.
On September 4, police ransacked the offices of opposition paper Bugün after the publication ran a story that claimed Turkey sent weapons to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Syria. The paper included pictures that allegedly show the weapon exchange.
Only a few days later, angry supporters of the Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and a member of parliament attacked the officers of Hürriyet with stones and shouted, “God is great,” after the publication tweeted Erdoğan’s remarks about the PKK. They deleted the tweet but face a probe for allegedly insulting the president. Editor-in-chief Sedat Ergin condemned the attacks.
“Hürriyet is Turkey’s most influential newspaper and a symbol of free journalism. Attacks on any newspaper should be condemned, but the attack on a paper with this kind of identity will particularly be put as a black page in Turkey’s democratic history,” he told CNN Türk.
Another mob ambushed the offices of Hürriyet two days after the first attack. The publications said that at least 100 people showed up to the protest swinging clubs, and reporters heard four gunshots. They also claimed riot police showed up 30 minutes after the attack started.
In December, “authorities issued 31 warrants for arrest” against journalists who allegedly criticized Erdoğan’s regime in the NATO country. Zaman Daily’s editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı was arrested, along with “a TV director, producers, scriptwriters and some police officers.”
Ordinary citizens in Turkey are also targeted. Authorities arrested a 13-year-old boy in his classroom over an alleged insult against Erdoğan on Facebook. The government pressured a private firm to fire a young cleaning lady after she supposedly disrespected him on her Facebook page. Authorities also arrested a former Miss Turkey after she quoted a poem on social media that insults Erdoğan. In another incident, Professor Hasan Herken, the dean of the medical faculty at Turkey’s Pamukkale University, resigned after he mocked a man dressed as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “16 warriors,” representative of various manifestations of the Turkish empires throughout history.
In February, Turkey’s prosecutor in Diyarbakir, the symbolic capital of the Kurds, charged Dutch journalist Fréderike Geerdink with “terrorist propaganda” for allegedly posting “messages on social media in favor of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers party (PKK), including a display of the group’s flag.”