Turkey Clamps Down On Media After Coup Attempt

Jul 28, 2016
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Turkey's clampdown on anyone remotely critical of the government after a failed military coup is hitting the media hard. The latest government decree issued under a state of emergency will force 130 media outlets to close. NPR's Peter Kenyon joined us from Istanbul for more. Good morning.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now, this clampdown seems to just keep expanding. What can you tell us about the latest people or group of people to be affected?

KENYON: Well, starting with the media, there's, as you said, about 130 closures. Now, this means newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, also things like publishing houses, all kinds of media the government says are connected to the cleric Fethullah Gulen. Now, the government says Gulen was behind this attempted coup. He denies it. He's trying not to get extradited from the U.S., where he lives. Under these emergency rules here in Turkey, the media can be closed, they say, for spreading propaganda designed to panic the population.

We also probably should note that some of those media organizations listed were already shut down. I mean, two of the best-known pro-Gulen media - the Cihan news agency and Zaman newspaper group, a couple of the best-known program-Gulen media outlets - they were seized by court-appointed trustees back in March, well before this coup attempt. They were not publishing anything critical of the government. And yet a number of Zaman journalists were arrested yesterday. So basically, we just have to wait and see what kind of evidence the government offers in the future. But at the moment, critics say it just looks like having some kind of tie to Gulen is itself reason to be rounded up.

MONTAGNE: Well, I mean, Turkey has had a pretty lively media, although, as you just mention, there was a media crackdown going on at somewhat of a lower pace even before this coup. But how are people - Turks - reacting to this?

KENYON: Well, the reaction is dismay and protest from those who are media advocates and free speech advocates. But the public in general, it's pretty muted. A lot of people here, especially government critics, are laying low. They're worried that any criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or the government right now could mean they too could be caught up in this crackdown.

MONTAGNE: Now, this new emergency decree also affects the military. It continues a purge of the armed forces. What about that?

KENYON: Well, the government decree says 1,684 military personnel are getting the sack, dishonorable discharges. This is enlisted men all the way up to generals and admirals. And this comes just as a promised overhaul of the armed forces is getting underway. And the military was long an independent power center here in Turkish politics, but no longer. The Supreme Military Council is meeting as early as today to discuss this shakeup.

And they are brought under day-to-day control of the government by this state of emergency. That means the government gets to be in charge of all the hiring, firing, all the basic decisions. And now the coast guard and Gendarmerie are also added to that by this latest decree.

MONTAGNE: And our people there are asking where this is leading and when is it going to end?

KENYON: Oh, yes. The questions are there. It's answers that are needed. The state of emergency's supposed to last three months. Government's giving very mixed signals. Some officials say maybe it will be over in a few weeks. Others say, well, it could be extended if necessary. There's kind of a feeling here the government wants to strike quickly and strongly while it's got these extra powers. The question is what kind of government or military will be left when it's over?

MONTAGNE: NPR's Peter Kenyon, speaking to us from Istanbul, thanks very much.

KENYON: Thanks, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.