Turkish opposition journalists released from jail, TV channel blocked

Two opposition journalists were released from jail on Friday after a Constitutional Court ruling that their detention since November was a violation of their rights, but the pair will still face a trial on terrorism and espionage charges.

Just hours later, in a related incident, an opposition television station was taken off satellite and cable feeds, apparently under orders of a prosecutor. No reason was given for the move against IMC, a 24-hour news channel, the latest media outlet critical of the government to face restrictions in Turkey.

Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, respectively editor-in-chief and correspondent of the left-leaning Cumhuriyet newspaper, were jailed three months ago after reporting on the alleged delivery of weapons from Turkey's spy agency to suspected extremists in Syria.

The Turkish government is a strong supporter of rebels, including hardline Islamic factions, in Syria.

Cumhuriyet, which reported on the release, is often critical of the Turkish government, which is headed by the Islamic-conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Dundar and Gul were greeted upon their release from prison in the pre-dawn hours by friends and family, encountering emotional embraces as they took their first steps outside the state's custody.

Dundar was later speaking about press freedoms in an interview on IMC when the feed was cut. The channel is still broadcasting but is available only via its website.

Last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged that Dundar and Gul would pay a "heavy price" for their reporting and was said to have been personally involved in the case against them.

There have been a string of prosecutions against journalists, politicians and ordinary citizens who have allegedly "insulted" the long serving Turkish leader.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin lashed out Friday against those who criticize Erdogan, saying that "they are making open terror propaganda, propaganda for a terror organization."

"When it comes to the fight against terrorism, then those who attack the Turkish Republic, especially our honorable president - no matter if they are politicians, columnists, rapporteurs or the chief editor of this or that newspaper - this doesn’t change the result," Kalin told reporters in Ankara.

Human rights groups have been sharply critical of Turkey over the prosecution of Dundar and Gul, saying their reporting was in line with journalistic norms.

Turkey ranks low on press freedom indices, and rights groups say there is an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression.

Last update: Fri, 26/02/2016 - 17:26
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