Turkish gov’s goes on silencing critical people, censoring media, targeting peace defending

Turkish government’s fight against free speech and peace defenders has continued full gear as new detentions come over social media content criticising Turkish military operation together with Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants in Afrin region of northern Syria.

Turkish police detained 13 people in Ankara on Friday over social media posts in support of an open letter by the Turkish Medical Association opposing the ongoing Turkish military operation in the Syrian area of Afrin.

Among the detainees Songül Akbay, an advisor to former HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ; Cevahir Canpolat of the Alevi association Pir Sultan Abdal; writer Emek Erez; Aysu Simge Taştan of the far-left group Student Collectives; Ali Erol of LGBTI rights group Kaos GL; Sibel Tekin of citizen journalism initiative Seyri Sokak and prominent lawyer Kemal Ulusoy have been reported by Turkish media. More than 350 social media users have been detained across Turkey since the start of the controversial Afrin operation.

Ümit Kartal

Ümit Kartal, the editor-in-chief of İzmir’s local İz newspaper, was detained on Friday over the allegations of publishing news article on the paper over Turkey’s Afrin operation by describing it as “occupation” to agitate people.

Ali Sönmez Kayar, a reporter for pro-Kurdish Etkin news agency (ETHA), was detained while leaving the office of the agency in İstanbul’s Aksaray district on Thursday. While the reason for Kayar’s detention was not disclosed, he was taken to the anti-terror branch of İstanbul Police Directorate.

Meanwhile, the Turkish government halted satellite broadcasts of the Lyon-based multilingual news media service Euronews, citing a request by Turkey’s public broadcaster, TRT. TRT, once a main partner of the channel together with France Television, RAI Italia and Russia’s VGTRK, sold its shares and ended its content agreement with Euronews in 2017.

It was reported that the real reason behind TRT’s decision was the Turkish government’s discontent with the news channel’s editorial policy, Euronews officials told the Turkish independent news outlet Gazeteciler.

TRT became a shareholder in the channel in February 2009, and joined its supervisory board in a public ceremony attended by then-Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The Turkish-language version of Euronews was launched in January 2010.

Also on Friday, it has been reported that Turkish Ministry of Education has removed a quote about peace from the Republic of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk from the high school curriculum. The curriculum originally cited Atatürk as saying, “Peace is the best way for nations to achieve prosperity and happiness,” and prompted teachers to highlight the importance of peace in the classroom. The new curriculum for 12th graders removed the entire section on peace, educators told online news outlet Ahval.

According to the report, the new curriculum on geography also listed mega construction projects of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as examples of how humans use nature. Many of those projects, such as the Black Sea Coastal Highway, have been criticised by environmentalists for permanently damaging the environment and blocking locals’ access to the seaside.

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