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Erdogan accused of McCarthy-style witchhunt 1 août 2013

Posted by Acturca in Turkey / Turquie.
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The Times (UK) August 1, 2013 Thursday, p. 28

Alexander Christie-Miller

The Turkish authorities have been accused of organising a « McCarthystyle » witchhunt against dissenting journalists, with more than 60 forced from their jobs in recent weeks.

The spate of dismissals by media organisations is part of a broader alleged crackdown against students, doctors, lawyers, and architects who participated in the wave of anti-government protests that erupted in Turkey on May 31. On Tuesday, Derya Sazak, editor-inchief of the daily Milliyet newspaper, became the latest high-profile journalist to quit. Appointed to the post nine months ago, he said his resignation was due to a change in management structure.

But people close to him have claimed it was as a result of his outspoken stance over the protests, which initially broke out over government plans to redevelop a park in Istanbul, and the ensuing media crackdown.

The Turkish journalists’ union said last week that 59 journalists had either been fired or forced to resign since the unrest began, mostly as a result of what it said was censorship pressure from the Government and media bosses.

The number includes Yavuz Baydar, who was fired from his role as ombudsman at the pro-government Sabah newspaper on Friday.

At a European Union press freedom conference last month, Mr Baydar said that « partisanship fuelled by frenzy now displays signs of a witch-hunt, with informant activities comparable with the McCarthy era ».

Some of the dismissals have been from Turkey’s state-run television stations and news agency, but most have been from private media organisations either owned by government-affiliated groups, or by business empires reliant on Ankara for contracts.

The Government has strenuously denied putting pressure on the media.

Yalçin Akdogan, chief political adviser to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister, wrote in a column in the Star newspaper on Tuesday that his party has « never taken any steps towards creating a partisan media, stopping the freedom of press, or purging dissidents. The number of media groups opposing the Government and who write bitter articles every day are two or three times bigger than the groups thought to be close to the Government. »

In the wake of the protests, however, other sections of society have experienced pressure that many have linked to the unrest.

Last week, government tax inspectors raided three companies owned by Koc Holding, one of the country’s largest conglomerates, prompting its shares to plunge by 10 per cent, in a move seen by many as retribution by the Government. Mr Erdogan issued a veiled threat to the group after a luxury hotel that it owned opened its doors to protesters as police swept them from Gezi Park in Istanbul.

Earlier this month, in a surprise move, the Prime Minister’s party forced a motion through parliament stripping the country’s chambers of engineers and architects, which were prominently involved in the protests, of their powers to regulate planning.

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