Yavuz Baydar: Turkey’s rounding up reporters, editors and columnists

Şahin Alpay

Şahin Alpay is a columnist for multiple newspapers, including Yarina Bakis, which was forced to suspend its print edition after the coup.

It was 6am when Professor Şahin Alpay and his wife heard the knock at the door. It was the police. They had come to take him into custody.

The 72-year-old journalist’s flat was searched for two hours. As he was led away, Alpay said: “I do not know why I am being taken away. I am not in a position to say anything.”

Alpay was only one of 47 journalists who were subject to arrest under warrants issued on Wednesday. The list included the names of columnists, editors and reporters who formerly had been employed in Zaman daily, which was seized by the security forces last March. It and its journalists now stand accused of being the so-called media leg of Fethullah Gülen terror organisation.

Alpay has been one of the most consistent and powerful socially liberal voices in Turkey for decades. He is very well known in European political circles, particularly in Sweden where he had completed his doctorate. He is respected within Germany’s social democratic, liberal and green movements. For years, he had been part of democracy projects conducted by the Ebert and Naumann foundations. Until very recently he had taught political science at Bahçeşehir University and continued to write columns in multiple newspapers.

The list also includes names such as Hilmi Yavuz, an 80-year-old poet, philosopher and literary critic, who is also well known abroad. Other names on the list wereP rofessor İhsan Dağı, a brilliant liberal scholar, and theologue Ali Bulaç.

Then there are journalists: Lale Kemal, an outstanding analyst of defence issues for Jane’s Defence Weekly; Nuriye Akman, who is well known for her long interviews; Bülent Keneş, former editor-in-chief of  Today’s Zaman, which is now controlled by trustees appointed by the government. The list goes on and on.

On Monday, a list of arrest warrants issued against 42 journalists. On Wednesday there were 47 more names. With this second wave of arrests, there seems no doubt that the clampdown on critical and independent journalism will continue in stages. The first wave targeted reporters regardless of the publications they were affiliated with. The second wave was aimed at Zaman. The message shared on social media: there is more to come.

Turkey’s situation cannot be any more serious. The aftermath of the completely unacceptable and bloody coup is marked by an incomprehensible priority to target dissenting intellectuals. This is reminiscent of the pattern the generals set down after the military coup in 1980. The targets were communists then, now it’s Gülenists that are the subject of the massive witch hunt.

The accusation directed at Nazlı Ilıcak, a 71-year-old veteran journalist on the centre right-liberal flank, is rather telling. The lawyers say that she is to be charged with “establishing the media leg of FETO terror organisation”, meaning a lifetime imprisonment if the charge sticks.

This was the overall picture as of the past 24 hours. It is, then, completely appropriate that, now that the witch hunt is openly targeting liberals on the right and left in Turkey, the rules of the emergency rule paves the way for a counter-putsch or, as the veteran journalist, Hasan Cemal, a close friend of Alpay and Ilıcak, labelled as “civilian coup”.

Indeed, Wednesday morning Human Rights Watch was swift in issuing an SOS warning to the world about the emergency rule, which now allows the authorities to keep people in custody up to 30 days.

“It is an unvarnished move for an arbitrary, mass, and permanent purge of the civil service, prosecutors, and judges, and to close down private institutions and associations without evidence, justification, or due process,” HRW said.

“The wording of the decree is vague and open-ended, permitting the firing of any public official conveniently alleged to be ‘in contact’ with members of ‘terrorist organizations’, but with no need for an investigation to offer any evidence in support of it,” Emma Sinclair-Webb said. “The decree can be used to target any opponent – perceived or real – beyond those in the Gülen movement.”

This is the list of 47 journalists targeted for arrest:

Osman Nuri Öztürk, Ali Akbulut, Bülent Keneş, Mehmet Kamış, Hüseyin Döğme, Süleyman Sargın, Veysel Ayhan, Şeref Yılmaz, Mehmet Akif Afşar, Ahmet Metin Sekizkardeş, Alaattin Güner, Faruk Kardıç, Metin Tamer Gökçeoğlu, Faruk Akkan, Mümtaz’er Türköne, Şahin Alpay, Sevgi Akarçeşme, Ali Ünal, Mustafa Ünal, Zeki Önal, Hilmi Yavuz, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Lalezar Sarıibrahimoğlu (Lale Kemal), Ali Bulaç, Bülent Korucu, İhsan Duran Dağı, Nuriye Ural (Akman), Hamit Çiçek, Adil Gülçek, Hamit Bilici, Şenol Kahraman, Melih Kılıç, Nevzat Güner, Mehmet Özdemir, Fevzi Yazıcı, Sedat Yetişkin, Oktay Vızvız, Abdullah Katırcıoğlu, Behçet Akyar, Murat Avcıoğlu, Yüksel Durgut, Zafer Özsoy, Cuma Kaya, Hakan Taşdelen, Osman Nuri Arslan, Ömer Karakaş.

A version of this article was originally posted to Suddeutsche Zeitung. It is published here with permission of the author.

Turkey Uncensored is an Index on Censorship project to publish a series of articles from censored Turkish writers, artists and translators.