Erdoğan regime’s official mouthpiece AA targets exiled Turkish journalists over Afrin messages

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency (AA), which was managed by a former advisor of Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Sunday targeted exiled Zaman media group reporters over social media messages critical of a Turkish operation in Syria’s Kurdish-controlled Afrin region.

Abdullah Bozkurt, Bülent Keneş, Emre Uslu, Tuncay Opçin and İhsan Yılmaz, journalists from the former Zaman media group, and Serdar Yeşilyurt, the Brussels representative of the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON), were accused by the news agency of siding with the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) because of their critical messages on social media.

In the report written by AA’s Brussels reporter Hasan Esen, the messages of the journalists were presented as evidence of the Gülen movement’s cooperation with Kurdish militant groups.

AA reported that former Today’s Zaman newspaper’s Ankara representative now-exiled journalist Abdullah Bozkurt wrote the operation was carried out to provoke people, saying, it was “to fuel the religious bigotry and national enthusiasm in the country.” However, the exact wording of the Bozkurt’s post in Twitter on Sunday was “Instead of focusing on political settlement to end 7-year conflict #Erdogan drags #Turkey’s military into Syrian swamp in order to fuel nationalistic euphoria and religious zealotry at home front.”

“Tuncay Opçin, who fled to the US, alleged, ‘Whenever Turkey becomes authoritarian state, the first people, who pay price, are always Kurds. Everything changes but this rule,'” wrote the AA.

AA has also reported that journalist and academician Emre Uslu’s reaction to a recitation of Surah al Fath at mosques across the country to greet the Afrin operation, and wrote that “Uslu said it would lead to a religious division among Muslims where he called ‘Kurdish populated cities.'”

Bülent Keneş, the former editor in chief of Today’s Zaman daily, wrote on a website that AA alleged that is affiliated with the Gülen movement, “Turkish government alienated Kurds in Anatolia to Turkey, on the other hand, dealt with only Moscow disregarding its deep ties with NATO and the western axis by using Kurdish groups’ efforts for self-determination as an excuse.” AA has also reported that Keneş didn’t mention the US backing PYD/PKK despite Turkey and used #AfrinSavasınaHayır in Turkish hashtag meaning “No To Afrin War.”

The Zaman media group was seized by the Turkish government on March 4, 2016 and closed following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Dozens of journalists who worked for the group were jailed following the coup attempt, while dozens are living in exile.

In an undated video of a live TV program shared last month on social media, journalists Cem Küçük and Fuat Uğur, staunch supporters of President Erdoğan, called on the Turkish intelligence service to assassinate former Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı and columnists Emre Uslu, Abdullah Bozkurt and İhsan Yılmaz: “Blow the brains out of three or five of them. Look how frightened they’ll be,” he said.

Aydın Ünal, a former speechwriter of President Erdoğan and current Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy, warned Turkish journalists in exile of extrajudicial killings in a column published on Dec. 4 in the pro-Erdoğan Yeni Şafak daily.

The AKP deputy listed the names of journalists to be targeted: Ekrem Dumanlı, Adem Yavuz Arslan, Celil Sağır, Bülent Keneş, Abdülhamit Bilici, Erhan Başyurt, Emre Uslu, Akın İpek and Can Dündar.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 242 journalists and media workers are in jails as of January 4, 2018, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 215 are arrested pending trial, only 27 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 138 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. (SCF with

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