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Journalists call for international support after Turkey arrests 10 in three days

JOURNALISTS have called for international solidarity and the immediate release of journalists held after raids of the Ozgur Gelecek newspaper and the Etkin News Agency (ETHA) in Turkey last week.

The Mesopotamian Women Journalists Platform held a press conference today warning that journalists “are not feeling safe in this country” after 10 were taken into custody in three days.

But they promised that despite the ongoing oppression, free press in Turkey won’t be silenced, but will grow stronger.

Three people were detained in a police raid on the left-wing Ozgur Gelecek newspaper’s Bursa offices last week and materials including computers and other equipment were seized.

Sevda Erkilinc, Tongay Okay and Huseyin Camkiran were held on grounds of “spreading terrorist propaganda.” 

The offices of ETHA were raided by police in Istanbul over the weekend with seven people taken into custody, including editors of the Sokakta Istanbul (Istanbul on the Street) newspaper, a supplement of the weekly socialist newspaper Atilim.

Authorities blocked the ETHA website during the raid.

An ETHA statement said: “The phones of our editors and reporters have been seized … We cannot reach our employees. We are prevented from declaring this lawlessness and making news. The free press cannot be silenced.”

The Mesopotamian Women Journalists Platform said: “Turkey is the country in the world with the most journalists in prison. Journalists by now are not feeling safe in this country. Dozens of journalists have been punished for the news they have written. 

“Many journalists have been forced to leave the country and seek asylum abroad. Journalists have been converted into a target. The fact that two opposition press agencies have been raided a few days one after the other is no coincidence. Despite all the repression, the free press won’t be silenced.”

The arrests come days before a controversial rerun of the Istanbul mayoral election which was initially lost by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate and former PM Binali Yildirim.

Voters will go to the polls for a second time on Sunday with Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu hoping for a repeat of the March 31 vote which saw him win with 48.77 percent of the vote against 48.61 for Mr Yildirim.

Election authorities bowed to pressure from Mr Erdogan who demanded the poll be held again, claiming irregularities after the humiliating defeat.

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