Website blocked on graft probe

As reported by Today’s Zaman:

The website of Taraf daily columnist Mehmet Baransu has been blocked in Turkey by the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) for publishing photos and tapes about a major investigation into alleged bribery linked to public tenders and money laundering, a move that Baransu defined as an “unlawful action.”

Censorship attempts of the government on the media have been a highly debated issue in Turkey in the last few years. Baransu has become the latest victim of these censorship attempts.

Access to the website of Baransu, yenidonem.com, was blocked in Turkey by TİB as of Wednesday evening because the journalist had published content on the ongoing graft probe in which 52 people, including bureaucrats, well-known businessmen and the sons of three ministers were detained on Tuesday.

Anyone in Turkey who enters the URL “http://yenidonem.com” in a web browser’s address bar will be met with this statement in English from TİB: “The protection measure has been taken for this website (yenidonem.com) according to Decision Nr. [sic] 2013/20643 dated 19/12/2013 of ‘istanbul [sic] cbs’ [the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and] has been implemented by [TİB].”

Baransu, speaking with Today’s Zaman, said: “My lawyer immediately went to the İstanbul courthouse in Çağlayan to search for the decision number that TİB mentioned. However, my lawyer found that the decision number put forward by TİB belongs to a robbery investigation of a person called ‘Murat.’ My lawyer could not find any investigation file or ruling against my website. My lawyer then got in touch with the prosecutor, who was allegedly the person who demanded the website be blocked. However, this prosecutor, whose name I cannot remember now, said he never attempted to close down the website in question.”

Alleging that his website was blocked with an order from the government, Baransu went on to say: “Then, we were told by a source in the courthouse, off the record, that a top official from the government called the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and asked the office to shut down the website. After this request from the government, İstanbul Chief Prosecutor Turan Çolakkadı sent a statement to TİB saying: ‘The ongoing corruption investigation is confidential. Thus, please take necessary measures against websites publishing evidence [from the police raids of the suspects’ homes].’ After this statement from the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, TİB only blocked my website. Almost every other website is publishing the same content about the graft probe. Why did TİB only block mine? I published the photo and tape evidence four or five hours after dailies such as Radikal, Hürriyet, Zaman, Bugün and Vatan did on their websites. The content I published is totally the same as what others have put up.”

Baransu said he tried to reach numerous officials but no one provided any details about the censorship of his website. Baransu said: “I tried to reach the TİB president, but I couldn’t. I also called the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and asked for details about the blocking of the website, but the officials there didn’t give any information. I also called the minister of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications, but he avoided my phone call. At last, I called the presidency and talked with press officials there. I gave them all the details on the censorship of my website and wanted them to tell it all to President Abdullah Gül.”

The journalist also indicated that if the president makes no attempt to solve this unlawfulness, he will think he also has a link with the corruption scandal. Baransu added that he is planning to launch a hunger strike in front of the Çankaya presidential palace in Ankara within the next few days to attract the world’s attention to this “unlawful action” against him.

He had earlier come under fire by the government in November and early December after he released a confidential National Security Council (MGK) document that mentioned a previous plan to crackdown on faith-based groups in the country. Prosecutors launched an investigation against Baransu and Taraf daily for reporting on a confidential document.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) fired a chief editor at the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), the latest in a series of firings that were triggered by the recent major graft probe. Ahmet Böken, chief editor of the TRT news station, as well as his deputy, Ahmet Çavuşoğlu, was fired. Böken previously worked as editor-in-chief of the STV news station.

The government hasn’t specified any reason for the sacking, which came some time after the probe. 

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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