Ankara. Eight media workers were detained on Wednesday during operations in seven provinces following the issuance of detention warrants by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 15 journalists who used to work for Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency (AA) as part of the government’s post-coup witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.
According to reports in the Turkish media, the 15 being sought by prosecutors were dismissed by government decrees under a now-ended state of emergency over suspected links to the Gülen movement due to their alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.
Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen, and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for allegedly using ByLock since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Police detained journalists O.K., E.G., F.S., A.C., İ.H.Ç., Y.Ç., M.M.Ö. and Y.E. during their raids in Ankara, İstanbul, Tekirdağ, Ordu, Yalova, İzmir and Tokat provinces.
Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of October 7, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after the coup attempt in 2016.