Turkish police raid magazine for insulting president

By bne IntelliNews September 15, 2015

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Turkish police raided the offices of the weekly news magazine Nokta on Monday and detained its editor-in-chief after the magazine’s cover featured a photomontage image of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan taking a selfie against the background of a soldier’s funeral.

Prosecutors in Istanbul banned the circulation of the copies of the latest issue of Nokta which they say insults the president and disseminates terrorist propaganda, and they ordered the detention of Editor-in-Chief Murat Capanafter the magazine published its cover online. He was later released.

The police raid on Nokta added to concerns about press freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey. Turkey is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in the 2015 World Freedom Index. The country’s rank was 98th out of 161 countries in 2006. A number of people, including journalists, have been investigated on accusations of insulting Erdogan. The police launched a series of raids police two weeks ago on the companies belonging to the Koza-Ipek Group which owns TV channels Kanalturk, Bugun and Bugun, and Millet newspapers. Pro-government newspaper Sabah claims that Nokta’s owner Cevheri Guven is close to Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric, Erdogan’s former ally-turned foe.

The cover of the critical news magazine is a reference to the escalating violence over the past two months in the country’s eastern and south-eastern provinces that has killed more than 100 security personnel. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has stepped up its attacks on soldiers and policemen after the two-year ceasefire collapsed in July.

Nokta said that its cover with Erdogan’s mocked-up selfie was a reaction to the president’s recent comment at the funeral of a soldier who was killed in a clash with the PKK. Martyrdom is a cause for happiness for the families of fallen soldiers,  Erdogan said.

Critics accuse Erdogan and the government of whipping up attacks on the PKK and the main Kurdish party HDP in an attempt to shore up AKP’s position in the upcoming general elections. Nokta’s cover actually played on these claims which Erdogan and the government deny.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, criticized the raids on Nokta. "Ban, raids and arrest worsen already worrying situation regarding freedom of expression in Turkey. Authorities must keep the media free," Muižnieks tweeted on Monday. 

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