Erdoğan’s propaganda machine Anadolu news agency targets Turkish journalist covering Atilla case

The state-run Anadolu news agency, run by a former advisor of Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as propaganda machine of his despotic regime, has targeted journalist Adem Yavuz Arslan, who is covering the New York trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive of Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank accused of helping launder money for Iran, on Thursday.

“Adem Yavuz Arslan, who is sought in Turkey, is following the Hakan Atilla case,” wrote Anadolu news agency, adding: “Arslan has been observed running smear campaigns against Turkey during lunch breaks in the proceedings and in the evenings.”

The news agency shared photos and a video of journalist Arslan leaving the courthouse in New York.

Speaking during his periscope broadcast on Wednesday evening Arslan said he was filmed by Anadolu news agency reporters, saying this kind of pressure would not prevent him from pursuing his profession.

Anadolu targeted journalists Arslan and Emre Uslu in another story on Dec. 2 with photos outside the courthouse.

Aydın Ünal, a former speechwriter of President Erdoğan and current ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy, threatened Turkish journalists in exile with 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.

In response to a question regarding the threats made by Ünal, a US State Department official expressed “serious concern” about actions of the Turkish government against its opposition, according to a tweet posted by American journalist Adam Klasfeld.

Arslan and Uslu are among the dozens of journalists in exile accused of having links to the faith-based Gülen movement, which President Erdoğan and his government accuse of masterminding a major corruption investigation in Turkey that became public in December 2013 and implicated the inner circle of the ruling AKP government and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan as well as a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab, prime suspect of the 2013 corruption investigation and main witness in the Atilla case, recently confessed in New York federal court that he had bribed Turkish ministers and bankers in a scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran and said that then-Prime Minister Erdoğan and his son-in-law and current Energy Minister Berat Albayrak ordered a resumption of the same scheme after Zarrab was released from a Turkish prison in 2014.

Hüseyin Korkmaz, a former İstanbul police officer who was arrested by the Erdoğan regime in the aftermath of the corruption operations in late 2013, called Erdoğan the “No. 1” target in a group that also included Mehmet Zafer Çağlayan, the former economy minister, and Süleyman Aslan, a former chief executive at Halkbank, a large Turkish state-owned bank that was central to the scheme.

Reuters serviced a news article analysing how Turkish people flocked to social media for Zarrab’s trial as Turkish media opts auto censorship. Some of the most visited Periscope and Youtube broadcastings about the Zarrab trial are belong to journalist Aslan and Uslu.

Allegations of wrongdoing by Turkey’s political and financial leaders have transfixed the country this week, but with some newspapers focusing instead on courtroom conspiracies and clothes, many Turks have been left hungry for news, reported Reuters news agency. Even Turkey’s top-selling independent and opposition newspapers omitted any mention of Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab’s testimony about then-Prime Minister, President Erdoğan’s involvement in a scheme to bypass Iranian sanctions.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 256 journalists and media workers are in jails as of December 7, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 230 are arrested pending trial, only 26 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 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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