Turkey Coup Aftermath: Erdogan Shuts Down 131 Media Outlets Overnight

Turkish Prison AFP

The purge of anti-Islamist elements in Turkish society following the failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues. On Wednesday, Turkey shut down 131 media outlets: television and radio stations, newspapers, and magazines.

The Washington Post breaks down the outlets shut down on Wednesday alone: “three news agencies, 16 television channels, 23 radio stations and 45 newspapers.” In addition, another 90 journalists have been arrested for alleged ties to Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric Erdogan has blamed for the coup attempt. On Wednesday alone, police arrested 50 journalists, all former employees of the newspaper Zaman, which Erdogan has tied to Gulen.

Gulen runs a chain of Islamic charter schools in the United States and lives in the Pocono Mountains. The FBI has investigated Gulen on various accusations of fiscal impropriety and fraud. Erdogan calls Gulen’s movement, Hismet, a “cult” and “terrorist organization.”

Gulen has denied any involvement with the coup attempt, staged by hundreds of members of the Turkish military, including high-ranking generals.

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, which had one of its own journalists detained this week, published the names of the national media outlets affected. In addition to Zaman, notable media corporations now shut down include the Cihan News Agency, Bugün, Bugün TV, Millet, the magazine Nokta, and Kanaltürk TV. Hurriyet notes that, adding local stations and newspapers, the total of media organizations shut down is 131. All outlets are allegedly tied to Gulen, according to Erdogan’s government.

Bugün and Millet are owned by the same company, Kozi-Ipek, which Erdogan shut down in October 2015. Police stormed Kozi-Ipek headquarters, shutting down all operations and forcing the station to broadcast news favorable to Erdogan. The following day, Bugün and Millet both dressed their front pages in black to mourn the death of press freedom.

The editors of Nokta are currently serving prison time for having published a political cartoon depicting Erdogan taking a selfie with the coffin of a soldier.

The government took over the Cihan News Agency in March, with a court appointing new administrators to ensure the news would be favorable to Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Erdogan took over Zaman that same month. Before the announcement Wednesday, Zaman continued to function with an all-news staff, publishing only pro-government headlines.

A statement in the government’s Official Gazette further threatened other outlets, Hurriyet notes:

The private radio stations, television channels, newspapers, magazines, publishers and distribution channels that are not on the list will be closed if they belong to or are in connection to structures, formations, groups or terrorist organizations that constitute threats to national security, with the approval of the ministry, after the proposal of a commission formed by the related minister.

Among those outlets not mentioned is Hurriyet itself. Hurriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan, a vocal secularist, was beaten by an Islamist gang and hospitalized in October. While he has written anti-AKP pieces in the past, Hakan has also written strongly against Gulen as recently as last week.

Also not mentioned is the newspaper Cumhuriyet, which has written reports accusing Erdogan of secretly arming Syrian rebels. The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Can Dundar, and Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gul, are currently serving time in prison for approving the publication of that report. Dundar was the victim of an assassination attempt shortly before being sentenced.

In addition to journalists, the Turkish government has arrested 99 generals and admirals, as well as teachers, lower-ranked military officials, and political personalities. Over 50,000 people have been arrested, fired, or suspended in relation to the failed coup attempt as of last week.


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