As six suspects, including a journalist, were detained in Samsun on Monday as part of an ongoing investigation into the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, İstanbul prosecutor’s office has issued a detention warrant for critical journalists Faruk Mercan, Adem Yavuz Arslan and Ekrem Dumanlı for publishing images and footage of murderer Ogün Samast in their media outlets in 2007 and 2016 in front of a Turkish flag.
Police detained journalist Muammer Ay and other suspects Murat Bayrak, Yüksel Avan, Birol Ustaoğlu, Yakup Kurtaran and Ahmet Çetiner in simultaneous operations conducted in six provinces. The search for the other two suspects is ongoing.
Meanwhile, the İstanbul public prosecutor’s office also demanded another arrest warrant for the prosecutor Zekeriya Öz, lawyer Halil İbrahim Koca and journalists Faruk Mercan, Adem Yavuz Arslan and Ekrem Dumanlı.
Journalist Ekrem Dumanlı was former editor-in-chief of critical Zaman daily, which was the most circulated Turkish daily before it was seized on March 4, 2016 and closed following failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Adem Yavuz Arslan was former Ankara Bureau Chief of critical Bugün daily which was also seized and then closed by AKP government. Faruk Mercan was Ankara Buraue Chief of Kanaltürk TV in the same media group called as İpek Media Group which was also seized by AKP government under the rule of autocratic Erdoğan regime.
Hrant Dink was shot dead at the age of 52 in broad daylight outside the offices of the Turkish-Armenian weekly newspaper Agos in central İstanbul on Jan. 19, 2007. Ogün Samast, then a 17-year-old jobless high-school dropout, confessed to the murder and was sentenced to almost 23 years in jail in 2011.
Shortly after the detention of Dink’s murderer Ogün Samast, his photograph and footage were exposed as he was standing in front of Turkish flag together with some police officers who were praising Samast.
As of March 1, 2017, Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has confirmed that 200 journalists and media workers are behind bars in Turkey, a world record by any measure. Of these journalists, 179 are arrested pending trial and without a conviction. Most of the journalists do not even know what the charges are or what evidence, if any, the government has because the indictments were not filed yet.
The Turkish government is apparently using arbitrary arrests as part of intimidation campaign to suppress critical coverage, muzzle independent media and silence journalists. Only 21 journalists who are in jail were convicted while the rest are in abusive and long pre-trial detentions. Moreover, sweeping detention warrants have been issued for 92 journalists who are forced to live in exile abroad or remain at large in Turkey.
March 21, 2017