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.