October 10, 2015

Politicians denounce Keneş’s arrest, call it unlawful

Lawmakers from three key opposition parties have joined the ever-growing chorus of condemnations regarding the arrest of Today's Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş, with many saying that his arrest is “a blatant attempt to shelve democracy.”

Ayhan Bilgen (L), Ruhsar Demirel and Mahmut Tanal (R)

Keneş was detained in front of the daily's headquarters on Friday night, over tweets that allegedly insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

He was held at an İstanbul Police Department detention center on Vatan Street for hours after he was taken into custody.

Colleagues chanted “Free media cannot be silenced” when police officers came to the building to detain Keneş.

Today's Zaman's editor-in-chief had been referred to a court for arrest by prosecutor Umut Tepe on Thursday; however, the court decided not to grant the request and let the journalist go free. The prosecutor objected to the court's decision on Friday and demanded that an arrest warrant be issued.

Keneş, who has already been targeted in several criminal complaints, two lawsuits for damages and six frivolous defamation investigations launched not only by Erdoğan, but his advisers and associates in the government, was in the daily's newsroom working on the weekend edition of the paper while waiting for police to take him into custody.

In the run-up to next month's parliamentary elections, the Turkish government's attempts at intimidating independent and critical journalists by abusing the criminal justice system have increased in intensity and frequency.

Bilgen: Arrest is a blatant attempt to shelve democracy

Ayhan Bilgen, a spokesperson for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) told Sunday's Zaman, “We are going through a period in which there's an attempt to silence every media outlet which does not propagate the ruling party's rhetoric.”

“Undertaking an arrest by snubbing freedom of speech is a blatant attempt to shelve democracy” he said.

Tanal: Journalists' detentions threaten the Turkish people

Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Mahmut Tanal told Sunday's Zaman that the detentions of journalists did not only threaten the press but also the Turkish people.

Speaking about the prosecutors who have been ordering that journalists be detained, Tanal said, “They [prosecutors] are all committing constitutional crimes.”

“Today, the censoring of the press and threats of fines to journalists, the investigations of [journalists] pertaining to terror organizations, the detentions of journalists, are not only threatening the press but also the Turkish people” he said.

He continued, “…Because the press is the eyes, the ears and the tongue of the people. The only duty of the press is to enlighten the people.”

“Today seven stations have been closed. Why does a ruling party have to do such things?” he asked, highlighting the recent decision by the Digiturk satellite network provider to stop the broadcast of seven TV stations deemed critical of the government.

Only last Thursday, Digiturk announced that it would no longer be broadcasting the stations Bugün TV, Mehtap TV, Kanaltürk, Samanyolu TV, S. Haber, Irmak TV and the children's station Yumurcak TV.

Digiturk's decision was seen as the latest example of the government applying heavy-handed pressure on media that is critical of it prior to the upcoming Nov. 1 general election.

Böke: democracy not possible in environment void of freedom of the press

CHP deputy chairperson Selin Sayek Böke said it is not possible to speak of democracy in an environment where the press is not free.

Speaking to Sunday's Zaman, Böke said all that Keneş had done was to share a tweet posted by CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on the social media platform Twitter.

“Not only are freedom of speech and the media freedoms of journalists being repressed, with these attacks their lives are also under threat,” she said.

Demirel: Terrorists are bombing places while police detain writers

Ruhsar Demirel, deputy chairperson for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), told Sunday's Zaman that while terrorists are bombing locations all around Turkey, the police are detaining writers.

“I don't know if tweets are as effective as bullets or bombs. The ruling party, which cannot silence the guns or bombs, are out to silence those people, stations, media outlets which criticize it,” Demirel said.

Published on Today's Zaman, 10 October 2015, Saturday