Three administrators of the neo-nationalist odatv.com news portal, who were detained earlier this week, were arrested early Friday on charges of links to the terrorist Ergenekon organization.
Ergenekon is a clandestine criminal network accused of plotting to overthrow the government.
Friday's court ruling involved Soner Yalçın, the owner of the news portal, and two of his colleagues, Barış Pehlivan and Barış Terkoğlu.
On Feb. 14 İstanbul police searched the offices of Odatv and the homes of the portal's administrators and detained four people. The fourth detainee, Ayhan Bozkurt, was released after interrogation by Ergenekon prosecutor Zekeriya Öz.
Those who have been arrested have also been accused of “seizing and publishing confidential state documents” and “inciting hatred and enmity in society.” They are currently incarcerated in Metris Prison in İstanbul.
As he was being taken to prison, Yalçın told reporters: “We took this flag from Uğur Mumcu and Abdi İpekçi. We will continue on their path.” Both Mumcu and İpekçi were killed in mysterious assassinations.
Some have expressed concerns about media freedoms in Turkey in the wake of the police search at Odatv, arguing that the search was a “government-sponsored project to put pressure on the media.” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded to the claims on Friday, saying the administrators of the news portal are being tried for acts that are not related to their profession.
Media Association slams pro-coup journalism
The Media Association issued a press statement on Friday in which it lashed out at media publications that side with coup attempts. In the statement the association expressed the demand that coup attempts in Turkey be investigated thoroughly and that those responsible for these attempts be punished in a speedy manner.
“The Media Association backs democracy, media diversity and freedom of the press. It is against acts aiming to put pressure on people who have different opinions as well as acts to aid and abet coup attempts through the use of legal opportunities provided by the profession of journalism. The Media Association strongly asserts that journalists should not be investigated or tried in courts when engaged in professional acts; however, everyone needs to wait until the conclusion of the legal process when journalists are accused of involvement in junta and coup-related activities,” the statement read.
The statement also said crimes such as being engaged in anti-democratic acts and calling for military interventions are a source of shame not only for journalism but for all professions.
The prime minister's remarks came during the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) meeting of provincial chairmen, held at the party's headquarters in Ankara yesterday. In his speech, Erdoğan asked why people who have been defending freedom of the press in the case of Yalçın and his colleagues choose to remaining silent in the wake of the revelation of threats against journalists Orhan Miroğlu and Mehmet Metiner.
In December, Miroğlu was targeted in an article which appeared on a pro-Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) website. “If it continues like this, Miroğlu will be eliminated,” the article read. In the article, the journalist was accused of being critical of the PKK and being a supporter of the AK Party. Similarly, intelligence officers discovered recent plans by the PKK to assassinate Metiner, a former advisor to the prime minister. A man was arrested on suspicion of plotting to kill the journalist.
“What are the threats against journalist Miroğlu if they are not fascism? What are they if they are not open threats against freedom of the press? Why do the people who are engaged in efforts to defend Odatv fall silent about threats against Metiner and Miroğlu?” the prime minister asked.
The leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, was critical of the Odatv arrests. He said he was not “surprised at all to learn that the odatv.com administrators were arrested.”
“We all know about the prosecutor, judge and court involved in the odatv.com case. We all can guess what will happen to them,” he noted.