ANKARA – The Turkish government on Tuesday rejected Western criticism over the state of press freedom in the country after claims of media intimidation during the weekend election.
“There is no pressure on the media. Nobody is forced to be silent in this country,” Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said in a television interview, while warning that the media could not enjoy limitless immunity.
The White House on Monday voiced concerns at the “intimidation” of Turkish journalists during the campaign for Sunday’s election that bolstered the already strong hand of longtime leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).
International observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also charged that the vote was marred by a media crackdown, violence and other security concerns.
Turkish prosecutors on Tuesday charged two opposition journalists with plotting a coup over a magazine cover criticizing Erdogan’s election win, the magazine said.
“Nokta editor-in-chief Cevheri Guven and managing editor Murat Capan were arrested on charges of attempting to overthrow the government by force,” the magazine wrote on Twitter.
Police on Monday had raided the Istanbul offices of the left-wing Nokta and detained the two editors over the cover that read: “The start of civil war in Turkey.”
An Istanbul court later ordered that the magazine’s latest edition be withdrawn from the shelves, accusing it of inciting the public to commit a crime.
The move comes after Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) swept to an unexpected victory in an election on Sunday which international observers said was marred by a media crackdown, violence and other security concerns.
Just days ahead of the election, riot police stormed two television stations by the Koza-Ipek conglomerate over its links with a U.S.-exiled cleric who is now Erdogan’s arch-foe, action that caused global alarm.
Nokta had been raided in September by the authorities for another cover satirising Erdogan.
Turkish police detained 35 people including senior bureaucrats and police officers in the western province of Izmir on Tuesday in an operation targeting supporters of Erdogan’s foe, Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, media reported.
The raids came two days after the AK Party, which Erdogan founded, secured a return to single-party rule, in an election result he cast as a vote for stability but which opponents fear heralds growing authoritarianism.
The Dogan news agency said Tuesday’s dawn raids were carried out at various addresses across Izmir in an operation against the ‘parallel structure,” a term used to refer to U.S.-based cleric Gulen’s supporters in the state apparatus.
The suspects were taken to the offices of the city’s organized crime unit, Dogan said.
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