Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warns the Turkish authorities against any temptation to silence critical media outlets on the pretext of punishing supposed supporters of the 16 July coup attempt.

More than a dozen news websites suspected of “endangering national security or public order” have been blocked by the High Council for Telecommunications (TIB) in the past 48 hours at the request of the prime minister’s office.

Under Turkish law, a government order blocking a website must be endorsed by an Ankara judge after the event.

The blocked sites include ABCGazete, Gazeteport, Can Erzincan, Özgür Düşünce, Haberdar, Karşı, Gri Hat, Aktif Haber, Samanyolu Haber, Meydan and Rota Haber. As of yesterday, none of them had been notified in writing although the blocking had already begun.

Only Medyascope, an innovative news site operated by the well-known journalist Ruşen Çakır, was unblocked a few hours after being blocked.

“An editorial line critical of the government or supportive of the Gülen movement cannot be interpreted as open and explicit support for the coup attempt,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “The government’s response to the abortive coup must stay within the limits of the Turkish constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression.”

ABCGazete owner Merdan Yanardağ told RSF’s Turkey representative that he failed to understand the grounds for the blocking.

“I was jailed by judges who support the Gülen movement,” he said. “How can we, my website and I, be accused of supporting this movement and posing a danger. Our coverage just referred to the danger of another coup, an Islamist one, after the failed coup. We urged people to support democracy and not the [ruling] AKP. That’s all! We will pursue our fight for democracy, rights and freedoms to the end. And we invite the public to do the same.”

The ABCGazete website continues to be accessible via an alternative address – The human rights website Bianet has posted a list of alternative links for accessing news resources that have been censored.

Human rights lawyer Yaman Akdeniz told RSF that he and a colleague, Kerem Altıparmak, have filed 25 requests with Turkey’s constitutional court calling for the quashing of legislative provisions that allow officials to block sites on “national security” or “public order” grounds.

Their latest request was prompted by the blocking of the Russian government news agency Sputnik’s Turkish-language website in April. The constitutional court has yet to issue a ruling in response to any of these requests.

The latest blocking has fuelled fears about more arrests of outspoken journalists. A warrant for the arrest of Arzu Yıldız, a journalist with the Haberdar news site, was issued today. Lists of “pro-Gülen journalists to be arrested” are circulating on social networks.

Turkey is ranked 151st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

Published on
Updated on 19.07.2016