New audio recording: Erdoğan’s undersecretary orders arrest of Taraf journalist

Former Prime Ministry Undersecretary Efkan Ala, who became the new interior minister after a major reshuffle in the Cabinet following the breaking of a graft investigation in mid December, allegedly ordered the governor of İstanbul province to arrest a journalist for publishing state documents related to the corruption case, a new audio recording leaked over the Internet late on Tuesday has shown.

In the audio clip, uploaded by Twitter user Başçalan onto YouTube, Interior Minister Ala is allegedly heard instructing İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu to immediately detain Taraf journalist Mehmet Baransu for publishing what Ala says are secret state documents.

“Detain him immediately. He is committing a crime and nothing has been done to him. As long as he continues to publish the documents, it is impossible to talk about the existence of a state,” said Ala, who appeared stunned and bewildered by what he says are the revelations in the documents.

In late December, Baransu’s website was blocked by the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) for publicizing photos and sound recordings concerning a major investigation of alleged bribery linked to public tenders and money laundering. Baransu called TİB’s decision an “unlawful action.”

The government’s attempts to censor the media have been a highly debated issue in Turkey over the last several years, and Baransu is only the latest victim.

Access to the website, yenidonem.com, was blocked in Turkey by TİB as of Dec. 20 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 Dec. 17.

During the phone conversation, Ala is heard telling the İstanbul governor that he should immediately talk to the chief public prosecutor to secure a court order to detain the journalist.

“Detain him soon. If the prosecutor fails to summon the journalist, detain the prosecutor, too,” Ala is allegedly heard saying.

In another audio recording leaked on the same day, Ala is heard instructing a high-ranking official at TİB to block Baransu’s website. When Tayfun Acarer, who holds a key post at the institution, voices his discomfort considering the lack of any court order to block the website, Ala is heard telling him to not worry about it.

“We can even pass new legislation to make it [blocking a website without a court order] legal,” said Ala while trying to calm the TİB official down after the latter expressed worries about the implications blocking a website without a court ruling at the time, two months before the latest Internet law was enacted in Parliament.

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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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