The International Press Institute (IPI) on Friday condemned raids by Turkish police last week in search of draft copies of an unpublished book by imprisoned journalist Ahmet Sik that reportedly focuses on the influence of an alleged Islamic group within the country's police force.
Police in Istanbul raided a printing house Wednesday in search of computer files containing the book by Sik, who was arrested earlier this month in connection with the alleged "Ergenekon" plot, and erased a digital copy.
Officers yesterday raided the headquarters of Radikal, a sister newspaper of the Hürriyet Daily News, where they seized a printed copy of the book from investigative reporter Ertugrul Mavioglu, whose opinion on the draft Sik had reportedly sought, and told Mavioglu to delete a digital copy. That raid followed a decision by a Turkish court ordering all draft copies of the book - which the court labelled an "illegal organizational document" - to be confiscated.
Turkish media quoted the court as saying that Sik's writings "do not have the characteristics of a book," but represent the Ergenekon organization's "orders and directives to be included in the manuscript," which "have been placed between paragraphs". The text therefore carries "characteristics of an organizational document", the court said.
Sik had reportedly planned to name his book "The Army of the Imam" in reference to followers of influential Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen. Sik's wife said yesterday that police told her that she and anyone else with copies of the book would face accusations of "aiding a criminal organization" unless all copies are turned over.
Authorities accuse Sik of being part of the Ergenekon plot, which allegedly sought to create chaos through assassinations and attacks that would lead to calls for the military to take power from the current government. Turkish authorities have implicated hundreds of politicians, retired military officers, academics and journalists in the plot since its existence was first alleged in 2007.
Critics have accused the government of using the alleged plot to silence its opponents. The Freedom for Journalists Platform, an umbrella group representing local and national media organizations in Turkey, including IPI's Turkish National Committee, has reported that Turkish authorities have targeted 68 journalists in criminal proceedings relating to the Ergenekon probe, activities on behalf of Kurdish groups, or membership in banned organisations.
Turkish officials maintain that Sik and other journalists have not been arrested because of their work. However, they have declined to release evidence purportedly linking journalists to the Ergenekon plot.
IPI Press & Communications Manager Anthony Mills said: "We remain highly concerned at the possibility that journalists are being targeted purely because of their work. The media have a fundamental right to keep citizens informed about issues of public interest, and constitute a pillar of any healthy democracy."
This press release is supported by the South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an IPI affiliate.