ANKARA, Turkey – As the purge to “weed out” those behind the military coup attempt of July 15 widens, the government has ordered the closure of dozens of media outlets, including news agencies, television channels, radio stations and newspapers.
In six years, Turkey has transformed from a model of Islamic piety, Western-style democracy and economic growth to a nation racked with tension, terror attacks and a dominating President whose power has reached new levels after the failed coup attempt.
Three news agencies, 16 TV channels, 45 papers and 15 magazines will be shut, and nearly 90 reporters and journalists have been detained this week in a move that rights group Amnesty International labels “a brazen attack on press freedom.”
The decree permitting the closure of outlets was published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday night, but the names of the media organisations have not yet been officially released.
Speculations have arisen that both small, provincial media outlets and dailies with a national audience have been targeted.
Out of the 47 journalists who were newly ordered detention on Wednesday, most are from the now defunct Zaman newspaper, which was Turkey’s largest daily, and allegedly a supporter of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who is accused of orchestrating the coup.
Separately, more than 2,400 military personnel were also dismissed, as the Turkish army revealed that 8,651 members, or 1.5 percent, of the nation’s armed forces took part in the failed coup.
The army said that the plotters had 35 planes, 37 helicopters, 74 tanks and three ships.
The widening of the crackdown has resulted in mass outrage from various rights groups around the world.
New York-based Human Rights Watch warned that the removal of judges, journalists and bureaucrats is “an unvarnished move for an arbitrary, mass and permanent purge of the civil service.”
Amnesty shared similar sentiments and deputy director for Europe, Gauri van Gulik, said Turkey’s government “is failing to make a distinction between criminal acts and legitimate criticism.”
She added, “Rather than stifling press freedom and intimidating journalists into silence, it is vital that Turkish authorities allow the media to do their work and end this draconian clampdown on freedom of expression.”
Turkey’s ties with the U.S. are also at stake, with the former urging Washington to extradite Cleric Gulen from his self-imposed exile, to take action.
Further, Recep Tayyip Erdogan also harbours beliefs that the U.S. and NATO played a role in the unsuccessful coup attempt, putting them on a collision course.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to hint that Turkey would not continue to hold its position within the NATO for much longer, and said that “NATO also has a requirement with respect to democracy.”
However, a campaign questioning Turkey’s NATO membership is also gaining steam, and is being fuelled by former senior officers from the military, like retired Rear Adm. Cem Gurdeniz.
Gurdeniz claimed it was patently clear that NATO did not serve Turkey’s interests anymore, adding that Turkey “should play a balancing role between the Atlantic and Eurasia.”