Turkish crackdown on press continues with journalists’ arrests

Bulent Mumay, one of 42 journalists ordered to be detained, ‘had no connection to Gulen’

Journalists gather outside a court building in Istanbul to support their colleague journalist Bulent Mumay, who was detained on Tuesday in connection with the investigation launched into the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15th. Photograph: Petros Karadjias/AP

Journalists gather outside a court building in Istanbul to support their colleague journalist Bulent Mumay, who was detained on Tuesday in connection with the investigation launched into the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15th. Photograph: Petros Karadjias/AP

 

A number of Turkish journalists accused of involvement in the Fethullah Gulen organisation have been arrested as part of a widening crackdown against the press following the failed July 15th coup attempt.

Bulent Mumay, a 39-year-old reporter and board member of the European branch of the International News Media Association (INMA), who had been in hiding until his detention, was detained and taken to Gayrettepe police station in north central Istanbul at 10.30pm on Tuesday.

“The police were polite, there were no issues,” said Levent Aydas, a lawyer who has been friends with Mr Mumay for 20 years. “The prosecutor is trying to speed up the process; he said he isn’t trying to hurt or punish those innocent.”

Mr Mumay is one of 42 journalists ordered by Turkish authorities to be detained on Tuesday as part of a crackdown that has seen 60,000 people targeted following the coup attempt.

Under emergency laws introduced last week that followed the failed military insurrection, detainees may be held for up to 30 days without charge. The state of emergency has been put in place for 90 days starting from last week.

“They are going to try to extend the duration of the process greatly. The prosecutor has expressed that there are very different names listed under the warrant of arrest, so, they will be distinguishing the guilty and the innocent,” Mr Mumay’s lawyer Eren Sener told the left-leaning BirGun daily newspaper.

Critical

Mr Mumay had worked as digital media co-ordinator for the Hurriyet newspaper group and this week published his first report for BirGun, a newspaper that has been critical of Turkish authorities in the past. Earlier this month its managing editor and manager were sentenced to 11 months in prison, later reduced to a €3,150 fine for “publicly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan”.

On Wednesday, arrest warrants were also issued for 47 former executives and reporters of the Zaman newspaper, which was taken over by a government-appointed administrator last March.

According to Mr Aydas, details of the charges against Mr Mumay are not explicitly known. “We don’t even know what the accusations are but we can assume they are in relation to alleged relationship with the Gulen organisation and the attempted coup.

“He [Mumay] has no connection and never had any connection to Gulen,” said Mr Aydas.

“In the past Bulent was targeted by Gulen’s supporters in the police and judiciary. He was involved and active in protests against restrictions on the media. It makes no sense he is being accused of being a supporter or member of this organisation.”

The Turkish government has blamed this month’s attempted coup on, Mr Gulen, an exiled cleric based in Pennsylvania, and is seeking his extradition from the US. Mr Gulen denies involvement.

Before his arrest and while in hiding, Mr Mumay tweeted an image of his Turkish journalists’ membership card along with the comment: “This is the only organisation that I’m a member of. I know neither another organisation nor another occupation.”

A host of independent Turkish media groups accused of terrorism or ties to terrorist groups have been closed down or taken over by government appointees over the past year as part of a purge of suspected government opponents that has escalated since the failed coup.