TURKEY: Police in Istanbul Raid Dissident Website's Offices, Journalists' Homes

TURKEY, 17/02/2011

Turkish police have raided the offices and homes of four journalists associated with dissident news website OdaTV amid accusations that they were part of a plot to overthrow the government, the International Press Institute (IPI) / South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) has learned from its Turkish National Committee.

Police in Istanbul seized documents as well as computers in the raid on Monday, which was ordered by prosecutors investigating the alleged secularist "Ergenekon" conspiracy. 

Police later detained the website's owner, investigative journalist Soner Yalcin, along with OdaTV news editor Baris Terkoglu and writers Ayhan Bozkurt and Baris Pehlivan.

Turkish authorities have accused hundreds of politicians, retired military officers, academics and journalists of participating in the Ergenekon 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. Leaders of Turkey's armed forces have denied the plot's existence.

Ferai Tinc, the head of IPI's Turkish National Committee, condemned the raid and the detentions, commenting:
 
"The actions of police in raiding OdaTV, searching the homes of journalists and seizing documents is a situation which cannot be accepted in terms of press freedom. We believe this operation, which is said to be related to an ongoing court case, is intended to silence opposition voices. While the termination of press organizations can be realised through legal means, we consider this operation a restriction on freedom of the press."

Anthony Mills, IPI's Press & Communications Manager, added:
 
 "We are concerned at suggestions that these raids may be in response to critical journalism, rather than any concrete criminal acts. A diverse media environment, characterised by differing viewpoints, and criticism, is a cornerstone of any democracy."

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