Ahval: Turkey Arrests 6 Journalists for Reporting Army Losses in Libya – Al Marsad

Turkish Ahval newspaper published an article under the headline ‘Turkish crackdown on dissent claims fresh victims’ in which Zülfikar Dogan indicated that half a dozen journalists in Turkey have faced arrests, detentions and lawsuits filed in the past week alone.

[Libya, 3 April 2020] – Ahval article stated that “President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on 22 February for the first time on the Turkish military losses in Libya, where Turkey backs the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) against General Khalifa Haftar’s eastern forces.”

The article, published on 12 March, quoted Erdogan as saying, “Of course, we have a few martyrs. But in return for those few martyrs, we have neutralized close to 100 fighters there”.

According to Ahval, critics accuse the Turkish government of hiding the real number of soldiers and security personnel killed in Libya. Yeniçağ newspaper columnist Murat Ağırel and security expert Abdullah Ağar published the identities and photos of the troops killed in Libya. It was later discovered that those killed were associated with Turkey’s intelligence agency, MİT.

Opposition Good Party lawmaker Ümit Özdağ also revealed in parliament that these troops were buried without the usual ceremony for soldiers killed in combat.

Two weeks later, a Turkish online news site, OdaTV, published a report on personnel killed in Libya being buried in a ceremony without the participation of high-ranking officials, as is usually the case.

The public prosecutor’s office took action when government-linked media said the articles violated a law banning the disclosure of the intelligence agents’ identities. Authorities immediately arrested OdaTV news director Barış Terkoğlu and reporter Hülya Kılınç. OdaTV chief editor Barış Pehlivan was also arrested after speaking out on the issue. Other arrests over reports on the funerals include Yeniçağ columnist Ağırel and Yeni Yaşam newspaper’s news director Aydın Keser, and its chief editor Ferhat Çelik.

Prosecutors have also demanded Engin Özkoç, a senior member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), have his parliamentary immunity lifted to face charges of insulting the president.

“They are trying to maximize fear, and silence and intimidate everyone. As if preparing for an early election,” CHP Member of Parliament Atilla Sertel told Ahval.

“The AKP set off to win the 1 Nov. (2015 general) elections by instilling fear into the public with terrorist attacks, violence and massacres. They even found success in this method. People got scared and withdrew. Now, they are doing the same thing by accusing journalists over incidents in Idlib. They are prohibiting protest of the war,’’ Sertel said.

Sertel said Yeniçağ newspaper, an idealistic-nationalist paper, and OdaTV, which favors Kemalism, had become the latest victims of an AKP campaign to silence dissent.

“These are specifically chosen opposition media outlets. These signs point towards an early election. On the one hand, the AKP is exerting efforts to hold quick elections during an atmosphere of war in Syria-Libya and the silencing of the opposition media. While on the other hand, they are calculating their votes based on the fear they’ve created,” Sertel said.

Journalist Şevket Bülent Yahnici, a former spokesman for the far-right party allied to the AKP, said the government was targeting those who do not share its views.

“The government’s social media has set up an organization called the Media Monitoring Centre, which follows all social media shares and messages. There is something known as procedural law. However, it has been discovered that the courts have issued fines on individuals, even if they haven’t been sharing news, notifications, or defense statements,” Yahnici said.

“I see it as very difficult to normalize this situation and for this country to find neutral ground,” Yahnici added.

© Al Marsad English (2020)