Nine Turkish journalists detained for using ByLock last week, have officialy been arrested and sent to prison while two others were released pending trial, P24 news portal reported on Thırsday.
The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Aug. 10 issued detention warrants for 35 journalists who are accused of membership in the Gülen group due to using the ByLock app.
Later the same day, police detained 11 of them — BirGün newspaper’s internet editor Burak Ekici, Zaman and Cihan reporter Muhsin Pilgir, İhlas News Agency (İHA) editor Ömer Faruk Aydemir, Cihan reporter Sait Gürkan Tuzlu, former Samanyolu television news editor Cüneyt Seza Özkan, Ahmet Feyzullah Özyurt, Cihan reporter Mutlu Özay, Mehmet Ali Ay and former Fenerbahçe TV news manager Yasir Kaya and reporters Yusuf Duran and Ahmet Sağırlı.
An İstanbul prosecutor on Wednesday referred the detainees to court for arrest, accusing them of terrorist organization membership.
Late on Thursday, 9 of the detainees were sent to jail on coup charges while a two local Gaziantep journalists — Yusuf Duran and Ahmet Sağırlı – were released pending trial.
The police are continuing operations to detain Abdülkadir Gümüşsoy, Ahmet Doğan, Bedrettin Uğur, Yakup Üstün, Selim Sırrı Bayer, Mustafa Gürlek, Emrah Kamil Ülker, Ertuğrul Erbaş, Hüdaverdi Yıldırım, Hülya Tekin, İbrahim Yekebaş, İrfan Galip Dumlu, İsmail Muhammet Sağıroğlu, Levent Özkökeli, Mahir Etyemez, Mesut Ertanç, Murat Keskin, Mustafa Kılıç, Osman Çalık, Sedat Gülmez, Serdar Bal, Aysun Yazıcı Kurumahmut, Hasan Hüseyin Koç and Emrah Direk.
Turkish authorities believe using ByLock is a sign of being a member of the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The mobile phone application ByLock is seen as the top communication tool among members of the group.
Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt.
Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The situation of media in Turkey has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after the coup attempt.
According to the Turkey Purge website, based on information compiled from PEN International, the Platform for Independent Journalism (P24), the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) and the Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD), 274 journalists were jailed in Turkey following a failed coup last year. While 163 of them are still in pretrial detention, the others were released pending trial or were cleared of charges.
Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) recently announced that more than 900 press cards were cancelled.
Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, the leader of the moevement, denied having any role in the failed coup, but President Erdoğan and hi government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
The Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.