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"Özgur Gundem" shut down as media houses raided in Turkey

A journalist of pro-Kurdish Ozgur Gundem gives an interview to a German TV channel at their newsroom before a protest against the arrest of three prominent campaigners for press freedom, in front of the pro-Kurdish Ozgur Gundem newspaper in central Istanbul, 21 June 2016
A journalist of pro-Kurdish Ozgur Gundem gives an interview to a German TV channel at their newsroom before a protest against the arrest of three prominent campaigners for press freedom, in front of the pro-Kurdish Ozgur Gundem newspaper in central Istanbul, 21 June 2016

REUTERS/Murad Sezer

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 17 August 2016.

Özgur Gundem is the latest opposition newspaper in Turkey to be forcibly shut down following the crackdown on media in the wake of a failed coup.

A court in Istanbul ordered the closure of the pro-Kurdish newspaper on Tuesday for spreading alleged propaganda on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The move comes as Can Dündar, editor in chief of another opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, resigned from his position, claiming he would live abroad after having been condemned to 5 years in prison for allegedly divulging state secrets.

The International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) have called for the closure of the paper to be reversed and backed Turkish journalists' unions calls for an end to the crackdown on independent and opposition media.

IFJ President Philippe Leruth said: “We are witnessing the strangulation of free and independent media in Turkey. Journalists are being sacked and arrested, media closed and dissenting voices silenced. The world must wake up and demand the rights of Turkey's journalists and media are upheld”.

EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard said : "The use of violence against journalists and media workers are unacceptable anytime, anywher and what just happened at Özgür Gündem, the historical Kurdish daily in Turkey, is unacceptable. Apparently, the authorities are using the post-coup state of emergency situation to attack all critical voices".

Shortly after the announcement of the newspaper's closure by authorities, police raided its office in İstanbul's Beyoğlu district, reports P24 website. During the police raid, the newspaper's editor-in-Chief Zana Kaya, journalists Günay Aksoy, Kemal Bozkurt, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Önder Elaldı, Ender Önder, Sinan Balık, Fırat Yeşilçınar, İnan Kızılkaya, Özgür Paksoy, Zeki Erden, Elif Aydoğmuş, Bilir Kaya, Ersin Çaksu, Mesut Kaynar, Sevdiye Gürbüz, Amine Demirkıran, Bayram Balcı, Burcu Özkaya, Yılmaz Bozkurt, Gülfem Karataş, Gökhan Çetin, Hüseyin Gündüz and Asli Erdogan were detained.

Özgur Gundem, whose print version has a daily circulation of around 7,500, has faced dozens of investigations, fines and the arrest of correspondents since 2014.

It has been repeatedly closed down in the past. More recently, the paper started a campaign on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, called “editors-in-chief on duty” in which guest editors temporarily took charge of the paper in an attempt to defend press freedom and highlight attacks on the paper and its journalists. However, an Istanbul court ordered the arrest of three of the campaigners, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Erol Önderoğlu and Ali Nesin on charges of “making terror propaganda” after they served as guest editors. After more than 10 days in jail, they have been released pending trial.

Following the closure of Özgür Gündem, the authorities violently raided today the house of Ragip Zarakolu, a well-known journalist, writer and editor. The writer was not home but his books about Armenian, Pontus and Assyrian genocides have been seized by the authorities. Houses of journalists Eren Keskin and Filiz Koçali have also been raided by the police for similar purpose.

Turkey has closed more than 130 media outlets and jailed more than 50 journalists since a state of emergency was declared in the wake of last month's (15 July) failed military coup.

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