The closure of the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper and the appointment of a trustee to head it is a major attack on the independence of the media outlet and another setback to media pluralism in Turkey, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir said on Thursday following Wednesday’s police raid on the newspaper’s headquarters.
On March 28 the central office of the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper and its printing house in İstanbul were raided by the police. Officials from the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) informed the paper’s attorneys that a trustee had been appointed to head the newspaper and its printing house. Twenty-one people have been taken into custody and reportedly face terrorism charges.
Désir addressed Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu regarding his concerns over the raid on the newspaper’s offices.
“I insist that journalists should not be accused of terrorism for their journalistic activities,” Désir said. “I therefore call for the release of the detained staff of the media outlet and of the printing house, the dismissal of the charges against them, and for the respect of the independence of the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper.”
“I remain convinced that a pluralistic media environment, protective of freedom of expression, does not weaken but contributes to the strength of a society facing security challenges,” he added.
Authorities took control of the paper on allegations that it has links to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Özgürlükçü Demokrasi is the successor of the Özgür Gündem newspaper, which was closed down by the Turkish government in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Since the coup attempt, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has taken over or closed down hundreds of media outlets in the country including Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, Zaman, and has jailed around 200 journalists due to their critical views.