A newspaper columnist, media commentator and political science professor, Şahin Alpay is the fifth imprisoned journalist to be sent a letter of support from MEPs since April, following Musa Kart, Ahmet Şık, Nazlı Ilıcak and Kadri Gürsel.
The previous letters were sent in turn by members of four other European parliamentary groups – the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Greens–European Free Alliance (Greens-EFA), the European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE).
Held in pre-trial custody since 30 July 2016, Alpay has “celebrated” his 73rd birthday in prison. He worked for the dailies Cumhuriyet and Milliyet before joining the newspaper Zaman as a columnist in 2002 and had been very critical of President Erdoğan’s government in recent years.
Charged with “praising a terrorist organization” and “legitimizing” the July 2016 coup attempt in the media, he is scheduled to go on trial on 18 September along with 29 other journalists.
The already alarming situation of Turkey’s media has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after the 2016 coup attempt. The crackdown has reached unprecedented levels and Turkey is now the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists, with more than 150 detained.
Around 150 media have been closed by decree, more than 775 press cards have been rescinded since the abortive coup, and the current level of censorship of the Internet and social networks has never been seen before in Turkey, which is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.