October 10, 2015

Turkish Journalists’ Union, politicians denounce arrest warrant for Keneş

Reactions began pouring in against a local court decision to issue a warrant for the arrest of Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş on Friday, with opposition politicians and the Turkish Journalists' Union (TGC) and opposition deputies denouncing the decision which they say aim to silence critical voices.

In a statement released on Friday, the TGC said pressure on the media is growing every single day in Turkey. The union recalled that a reporter in Diyarbakır was threatened with gun by the police, journalist Ahmet Hakan was attack, Hürriyet daily headquarters was raided by pro-government mobs, access was blocked to 106 news portals and digital satellite platforms stopped the broadcast of critical news channels just in the past month.

“Referring Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş to a court for arrest ahead of elections is another example of intimidation of the media. We hope these moves which harm Turkish democracy ends,” the statement said.

The Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) also strongly condemned the warrant and Keneş’s subsequent detention. “We condemn the arrest of our colleague Bülent Keneş and we call on judicial authorities to act in accordence with supranational conventions it is obliged to abide by and to immediately revoke the decision to arrest him,” the platform said in a statement released on Friday.

An İstanbul court on Friday issued a warrant for the arrest of Today's Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş on charges of “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a series of tweets that the journalist said was simply him expressing a critical opinion.

İstanbul 5th Penal Judge of Peace Cevdet Özcan issued the warrant after prosecutor Umut Tepe objected to a ruling by the 4th Penal Court of Peace on Thursday that rejected his request to arrest Keneş. Although the court ruled out arrest, it decided to place Keneş under judicial supervision and banned him from traveling abroad.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Mahmut Tanal also reacted to the court decision which he termed “unacceptable.” “Arbitrarily summoning members of the press to testify, detaining them and arresting them are against the principle of freedom of expression. Although the obstacles before fundamental rights and the freedom of expression should be lifted, arresting some members of the press is unacceptable. This is an open violation of human rights,” he said.

Another CHP deputy and a former journalist, Barış Yarkadaş, said the government’s latest move to arrest Keneş is an indication that the government and the president “completely lost their minds.”

“Requesting the arrest of Keneş on the grounds that he continues tweeting means violation of the laws. I am ashamed that I am living with those who made this decision in the same period,” he tweeted.

Published on Today's Zaman, 9 October 2015, Friday