A Zamam newspaper supporter peruses the latest edition of the newspaper (AFP)


Turkish journalist who escaped arrest: We are being eradicated

The Turkish journalist, whom we shall call Murad (a pseudonym because he prefers not to be named), arrived in Boston on July 1, 2016 to visit some of his relatives after losing his job in March of that year.

Murad had worked as a journalist for the Turkish newspaper Zaman. The newspaper was raided by the police six months ago and placed under a board of trustees. Its editor-in-chief Abdülhamit Bilici was fired along with 200 of the newspaper’s employees for allegedly working for the group of Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen.

Since then, Zaman journalists have tried to find work in Turkey, but other newspapers have refused to hire them to avoid clashing with the government.

Two weeks after Murad arrived in the United States, a coup was attempted against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Units of the Turkish army occupied several sites in Istanbul and Ankara before the government gained control of the situation.

Following the failed coup, the Turkish authorities launched a campaign of arrests against a large number of army officers, police personnel and journalists and dismissed thousands of employees from civil institutions, all of whom Ankara believed were linked to the Gülen group. Former Zamam journalists were prominent among the detainees. Murad escaped arrest because he was in the United States during the coup.

Journalists accused of supporting the coup

“I may have faced difficult circumstances, having been unemployed for six months. However, my colleagues fared even worst. Most of them are in prison for allegedly supporting a coup they had nothing to do with,” Murad told Alhurra. “They were critical of the coup on social media but were nonetheless arrested.”

On August 30, the Turkish public prosecutor issued a decision to arrest 35 Turkish journalists whom the government believed to be linked to the Gülen movement. “The majority of these journalists were working for Zaman,” Murad says. “The state arrests any journalist who criticizes the government and jails him without any evidence.”

Murad adds that these journalists face difficulties in finding work after they are released.

“This is the worst crackdown in Turkey’s recent history. These individuals are being socially isolated by the authorities. They are not feeling safe at all. Things are getting worse for them,” he said.

“I do not exaggerate, anyone who monitors the daily news will find the situation similar to a war of annihilation against a communal group.”

Since the attempted coup, the Turkish authorities have closed 100 media outlets, arresting 100 journalists in one month, according to a report prepared by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The director of the committee’s program in Central Asia stated, in the same report, that the Turkish authorities are closing down media institutions at an unprecedented rate.

According to the tweets of Turkish political analyst and journalist, Mahir Zeynalov, 115 Turkish journalists have been arrested since the coup attempt and the arrest of Cihan news agency Africa editor Ibrahim Varlık, (Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) September 3, 2016).

Murad decided, after consulting with his family, to stay in America until things settle down. “I’ll be here for the near term and will try to go to school in the United States.”

So far, he has not submitted a request for asylum to the US authorities but he says he may do so if things get worse.

This story originally appeared on alhurra.com. (September 8, 2016)