Turkish court arrests 9 out of 11 journalists detained over alleged ByLock use

An İstanbul prosecutor ruled for the arrest of 9 out of 11 journalists who were detained on August 10 as part of an investigation targeting people over their alleged use of a smart phone application known as ByLock to court for arrest, accusing them of terrorist organization membership.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Aug. 10 issued detention warrants for 35 journalists who are accused of membership in the faith-based Gülen movement due to using the ByLock app.

According to the court decision, Birgün editor Burak Ekici, former İhlas news agency news editor Ömer Faruk Aydemir, former Zaman reporter Muhsin Pilgir; former Cihan news agency reporter Sait Gürkan Tuzlu, former Samanyolu TV news editor Cüneyt Seza Özkan, former Cihan news agency reporter Mutlu Özay, Ahmet Feyzullah Özyurt, former news director of the Fenerbahçe TV Yasir Kaya and Mehmet Ali Ay were arrested.

Meanwhile, Vatan page editor Yusuf Duran and  former Türkiye columnist Ahmet Sağırlı released on probation.

The police are continuing operations to detain Abdülkadir Gümüşsoy, Ahmet Doğan, Bedrettin Uğur, Yakup Üstün, Selim Sırrı Bayer, Mustafa Gürlek, Emrah Kamil Ülker, Ertuğrul Erbaş, Hüdaverdi Yıldırım, Hülya Tekin, İbrahim Yekebaş, İrfan Galip Dumlu, İsmail Muhammet Sağıroğlu, Levent Özkökeli, Mahir Etyemez, Mesut Ertanç, Murat Keskin, Mustafa Kılıç, Osman Çalık, Sedat Gülmez, Serdar Bal, Aysun Yazıcı Kurumahmut, Hasan Hüseyin Koç and Emrah Direk.

Turkish authorities believe using ByLock is a sign of being a member of the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The mobile phone application ByLock is seen as the top communication tool among members of the group. Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt.

Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The situation of media in Turkey has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after the coup attempt.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 275 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of August 16, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 250 are arrested pending trial, only 25 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 movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) recently announced that more than 900 press cards were cancelled.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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