The International Press Institute (IPI) is highly concerned at reports that Turkish police today detained more journalists, including IPI World Press Freedom Hero Nedim Sener, as part of a controversial probe into an alleged plot to overthrow the government.
Reuters reported that arrest warrants had been issued for 11 people – including Sener, journalist Ahmet Sik and others – whose houses were searched in Ankara and Istanbul this morning on allegations that they are part of the “Ergenekon” plot.
Turkish authorities have accused hundreds of politicians, retired military officers, academics and journalists of participating in the plot, which allegedly called for assassinations and attacks that would create chaos and lead to calls for the military to take power from the current government headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Today’s raids were reportedly based on information discovered when Turkish police raided the offices and homes of four journalists associated with dissident news website OdaTV two weeks ago and arrested three of the journalists.
OdaTV was raided after posting a video criticizing a police investigation into the plot. Lawyers for the journalists detained in the raid have maintained that evidence was placed on the journalists’ computers by a hacker.
Sener is an author and investigative reporter for daily Milliyet. IPI named him a World Press Freedom Hero last year for a book he wrote blaming security forces for the 2007 murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
Sik already faces prosecution for co-writing a critical book about the government’s crackdown in the Ergenekon case, which began in 2007. He is also the author of “Contre Guerilla,” which reveals the “deep state” in Turkey: renegade security forces said to act outside the law in what they judge to be the country’s best interests. Those same forces are those reportedly behind the Ergenekon plot.
Several news websites said police had discovered a draft book by Sik that allegedly focused on religious groupings within the police force on the hard disk of a computer seized in last month’s OdaTV raids.
IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: “We are extremely concerned at reports of the arrest of more Turkish journalists, including IPI’s World Press Freedom Hero Nedim Sener. No journalist should face arrest, charges, imprisonment or any other form of harassment or intimidation for doing their job – which can include expressing critical views. We urge the authorities to release all of the journalists imprisoned because of their work. A flourishing, diverse, critical media is a cornerstone of any healthy democracy.”
This press release is supported by the South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an IPI affiliate.