Investigative journalist reporting from exile targeted by pro-Erdoğan daily

Cevheri Güven, an investigative journalist in exile whose videos on YouTube in which he talks about the Turkish government’s corruption and murky relations attract hundreds of thousands viewers, has been targeted by a pro-government newspaper that revealed his address and published secretly taken photos, Turkish Minute reported.

According to Fatma Zibak’s story, on its front page on Thursday, the Sabah daily, owned by the pro-government Turkuvaz Media Group, published photos of Güven walking on the street with a bag from a bakery in a German city. He is one of the hundreds of Turkish journalists and government opponents who had to flee Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016 to avoid a massive crackdown launched by the government.

Sabah referred to Güven as the “propaganda imam of Fetö,” a term coined by the Turkish government to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement as a terrorist organization.

The Gülen movement is accused by the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding the failed coup on July 15, 2016 and is labeled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Sabah also published photos of Güven’s house, labelling it a “center of slander” and saying that the journalist has shot 253 YouTube videos so far in his home, accusing him of slandering Turkish bureaucrats and politicians.

In his videos, which attract as many as 1 million viewers, Güven makes scandalous revelations about President Erdoğan, his family members, his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and bureaucrats as well as journalists and opposition figures.

Sabah news coordinator Abdurrahman Şimşek secretly followed Güven for several months in Germany until he found out his address and took the photos of him and his house. Şimşek said in his article that Güven was freely walking in the streets of Germany, living in a luxury home and earning thousands of euros from his videos.

Güven thinks the manhunt for him was carried out by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT).

German media outlets earlier reported that there were thousands of MİT agents operating in the country spying on Turkish dissidents who fled Turkey and took refuge in Germany.

“What is Hakan Fidan trying to do?” Güven asked from his Twitter account on Thursday, sharing a photo of Sabah’s front page with his photos. He was referring to the head of MİT.

Güven said in a written statement to Turkish Minute that he thinks the reason he was targeted by the pro-Erdoğan media is a video he posted on YouTube on Sept. 4 in which he suggested the involvement of MİT in the failed coup.

In this video Güven claimed that a FaceTime call Hande Fırat, CNN Türk’s Ankara bureau chief and TV anchor, had with President Erdoğan as the coup was unfolding, was staged, although it was presented as being spontaneous. During the call, which is considered a turning point in the course of the coup attempt, Erdoğan called on his supporters to take to the streets and resist the coup perpetrators.

Güven also revealed in this video that Fırat met with MİT’s then-press advisor Nuh Yılmaz in an Ankara suburb one day before the coup attempt.

“Nuh Yılmaz is someone who works directly for Hakan Fidan. He is responsible for media affairs and black propaganda. My video has changed the national agenda in Turkey, and people have talked about it for days. MİT having pictures of me taken secretly in Germany and revealing my address is an obvious act of intimidation. Talking about the role of MİT in the organization of July 15 [coup attempt] is a red line for Erdoğan,” said Güven.

There are widespread suspicions about the background of the coup attempt, following which the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens. Erdoğan also expanded his powers under a change in the system of governance. There are claims that Erdoğan knew about the coup attempt before it took place but deliberately took no action to prevent it, or that he was involved in its planning to use it later as a pretext to silence critics and expand his powers.

Güven has recently been facing growing pressure and threats from pro-government circles in Turkey as his videos continue to reach a large audience, even attracting more viewers than some mainstream news outlets in Turkey.

Journalists who fled Turkey following the coup attempt to avoid jail on bogus terrorism or coup charges such as Güven have established their own news outlets and have become the major source of news for some Turks in a country where 90 percent of the national media is owned by pro-government businessmen who toe the official line, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Güven, a former editor of the now-defunct Nokta magazine, along with the magazine’s managing editor, Murat Çapan, was handed down a prison sentence of 22 years, six months in 2017 on charges of “inciting people to armed revolt against the Turkish government.”

The journalists were sentenced to prison due to two cover stories in Nokta that criticized Erdoğan for “capitalizing” on the death of soldiers in Turkey’s fight against terrorism.

Sabah’s story about Güven comes at a time when Turkish journalists in exile are being subjected to attacks by unknown assailants, believed to be linked to the Turkish government.

In March Ahmet Dönmez, a Turkish journalist living in exile in Sweden and known for his reports on mafia groups associated with Turkish government officials including Erdoğan, was attacked by two men in Stockholm.

Dönmez, who lost consciousness after the attack, which took place in front of his 6-year-old daughter, was treated in intensive care due to an injury to his head.

In July 2021 another exiled journalist, Erk Acarer, was attacked “with fists and knives” in the courtyard of his apartment building in Berlin.

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