Turkish Twitter users call for release of journalist Avcı held in prison since 2015

Turkish Twitter users launched a hashtag campaign on Saturday calling on authorities to release Gültekin Avcı, a journalist who has been in prison since 2015 simply because of six articles he authored.

The hashtag #GültekinAvcıyaÖzgürlük and its English version #FreeGultekinAvci were shared widely by Turkish social media users appealing to the Turkish government to release Avcı.

Avcı, who used to be a columnist for the now-closed Bugün daily and a debate program host for the now-shuttered Samanyolu Haber TV, was arrested by an İstanbul court on September 21, 2015. The six articles he wrote for Bugün have been presented as evidence for the charge against him of serving as an executive of a “terrorist organization.”

He was released on June 9, 2016, but detained again on August 25, 2016 as part of the Turkish government’s massive purge targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The Turkish government increased its crackdown on critical media outlets and journalists after the abortive putsch, following which dozens of journalists were jailed and more than 200 media outlets were closed down under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

The Council of Europe’s (CoE) annual report, “Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists,” in April called on Turkish authorities to cease all actions aimed at blocking or criminalizing independent reporting and take steps to restore judicial independence.

Turkey was also ranked 153rd among 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in April.

According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 172 journalists are behind bars in Turkey and 167 are wanted and either in exile or at large.

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