Turkish security forces on June 26 conducted a raid at the offices of the Istanbul-based Güneş News Agency as part of a large-scale operation against the underground Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP), according to news sources. Police units carried out the search at the news agency, which oversees the technical affairs of Etkin News Agency and weekly newspaper Atılım, at the behest of an Istanbul Court, it was reported.
Security forces allegedly seized notes, archived material and personal belongings while holding 15 or so employees in their offices for several hours, without having produced detention orders. So far, the police have not publicly provided a foundation for the suspected link between the news outlets and the MLKP: according to an IPI media source in Turkey.
Condemning the use of anti-terror laws against journalists, IPI’s Turkish National Committee released a statement saying: “We are hoping for changes to those articles of the law that give way to free speech and press violations. Accusations made against media outlets suggesting links to illegal organisations are nothing but tactics to pressure news agencies, newspapers and journalists into self-restraint.”
In response to the raid, the chairman of the Turkish Journalists’ Union and the Freedom for Journalists Platform, Ercan İpekçi, criticised the increasing use of “anti-democratic measures” in the country. In a statement made on Wednesday he claimed there was no difference between the detention of journalists as terrorists, and the branding of press organisations as mouthpieces for illegal organisations, and he called for the amendment of existing laws.
Earlier this year, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) released a study indicating that the number of journalists imprisoned in Turkey has nearly doubled over the previous year, prompting the group to call for immediate reform of the country’s broadly interpreted anti-terror laws. OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović specifically denounced Articles 5 and 7 of the Anti-Terror Law, relating, in part, to propagandising on behalf of terrorist groups. The interpretative scope of those provisions is so wide, the report noted, that “media outlets reporting about sensitive issues (including terrorism or anti-government activities) are often regarded by the authorities as the publishing organs of illegal organizations”. It added: “Courts often consider reporting about such issues as equal to supporting them.”
Turkey has drawn widespread criticism for its failure to protect press freedom. Last November, a judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said Turkey had the worst press freedom record among all 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
The South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) supports this statement.