Gun attack targets critical journalist İrfan Değirmenci’s house

Former Kanal D news presenter İrfan Değirmenci.

An armed attack was staged on the dissident journalist İrfan Degirmenci’s house in İstanbul on early Wednesday. “My house was shot with bullets towards this morning. Thanks police for their examination. They wrote down a report. They consider the possibility of ‘a stray bullet.’ I am fine. Please do not panic,” he wrote on Twitter.

Değirmenci was fired as a popular TV presenter at Doğan Media Group’s Kanal D TV after he declared on social media that he would vote “no” in a referendum that was held April 16 on constitutional amendments for a switch from a parliamentary system of governance to an executive presidency, in mid-February.

Meanwhile, Emre İper, who works as a finance manager at Cumhuriyet daily, has been arrested over use of a smart phone application known as ByLock. İper was detained by police following a police raid on his house early on April 14 and then sent to jail by the İstanbul 12th Penal Judge of Peace on Tuesday.

ByLock is considered by Turkish authorities to be the top communication tool among followers of the Gülen movement, which is accused by the government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. However, the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch. Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt.

The Cumhuriyet daily has been the target of a government-led crackdown on critical media outlets in the country as 10 journalists and executives from the daily, including its Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, were arrested by the İstanbul 9th Penal Court of Peace in November. They face allegations of aiding the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and FETÖ.

“FETÖ” is a derogatory term and acronym for the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization,” coined by Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to refer to the Gülen movement.

However, Gülen movement has been inspired by the US-based Turkish Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen who has been advocating science education, interfaith and intercultural dialogue and community contribution. The movement promotes a moderate version of Islam with a heavy emphasis on public service. The movement runs schools and universities in 180 countries.

Gülen has been a vocal critic of Turkish government and Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan on massive corruption in the government as well as Turkey’s aiding and abetting of radical groups in Syria. Erdoğan launched an unprecedented persecution against Gülen and his followers in December 2013 right after major corruption probe that incriminated Erdoğan’s family members.

The ruling AKP’s Islamist leaders labelled the movement as ‘FETÖ’, a terrorist organization, although Gülen, 75-year old cleric, and his followers have never advocated violence but rather remained staunchly opposed to any violence, radicalism and terror in the name of religion.

Turkey is the worst jailer of journalists and media workers in the world. Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has recently announced the number of journalists behind bars reached to a new record with currently 231 languishing in Turkish jails, most without a trial and convictions. Of these journalists, 210 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. Also 100 journalists are wanted and 839 have been charged in Turkey. (SCF with April 19, 2017


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