Freedom of the press in turkey: raid on third-largest newspaper

The tabloid "Sozcu" sharply criticized President Erdogan. Now the online boss and the managing director have been arrested.

Freedom of the press in Turkey is becoming more and more restricted Photo: dpa

Again journalists are arrested in Turkey, again a newspaper is targeted by police and judiciary. On Friday morning, police and prosecutors appeared at Sozcu, a nationalist tabloid that is, however, one of the harshest critics of Islamic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan due to its secular Kemalist stance.

The online head of the paper, Mediha Olgun, and the managing director, Yonca Keleli, were arrested. There are different details about the reporter Gokmen Ulu. Online networks reported that he had also been arrested, but his lawyer said that only his house was being searched. On the other hand, the editor and owner of Sozcu, Buray Akbay, is wanted on a warrant.

The editorial staff of Sozcu has so far only confirmed that a police operation against the newspaper is taking place, but writes that the newspaper will continue to be published in any case. Sozcu has a circulation of 270,000, making it Turkey’s third-largest paper after Hurriyet and Sabah. The stories in Sozcu are often borderline, but the newspaper also surprises again and again with interesting information.

Thus, the current operation against Sozcu is also said to be related to an important journalistic achievement of the editorial staff. On the night of the coup on July 15, 2016, when the whole world was still wondering where President Erdogan was, Sozcu’s online portal was the first to find out that Erdogan was staying at a resort in Marmaris. The author of the story was the very reporter Gokmen Ulu, who may now have been arrested. In any case, the official charge against the Sozcu journalists and businessmen is "supporting the Gulen movement."

Buray Akbay, the owner and publisher of the paper, is a colorful businessman who also became known in Germany when he got involved in the bidding war to buy the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper years ago. At the time, colleagues in Frankfurt puzzled over how serious Buray Akbay’s intentions were. After all, Akbay owns a printing plant in the Frankfurt area, where Sozcu’s European edition is also published.

Buray Akbay is said to be in France at the moment. He is unlikely to return to Istanbul anytime soon. Many journalists in Turkey see the attack on the secular newspaper as a precursor to a renewed attack on Hurriyet, which is also secularly oriented. After all, despite all the repression and the resulting dismissals of editors-in-chief and important journalists, Hurriyet is still Turkey’s largest and most important newspaper.

And even Sozcu sells more copies daily than Yeni Safak, the AKP’s house paper. A vigil was held Thursday for the 13 arrested colleagues of the left-liberal Cumhuriyet, because they have already been in prison for 200 days.

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