7 January 2019:
A Turkish prosecutor requested a 15-year prison sentence for the publisher of banned Kurdish daily Azadiya Welat over charges of being a member of a terrorist organisation, pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya Agency reported on Monday.
An indictment prepared by the prosecutor in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır said Ramazan Ölçen "was acting on behalf of a terrorist organisation under the name of the publisher of a legal newspaper".
Azadiya Welat, founded in 1992, was shut down in August 2016, when police raided the newspaper's headquarters in Diyarbakır, taking all 27 staff into custody. The paper had previously faced a distribution ban, death threats to its workers, and the murder of a journalist who was distributing the paper in 2014.
Ankara’s media crackdown that began in early 2016 and accelerated after a failed coup attempt that July, which the government blamed on the movement led by exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, has since continued, often focused on Kurdish outlets.
In October 2016, the Turkish government issued a decree shutting down 15 more Kurdish media outlets, accusing them of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organisation.” Most of the closed media are based in southeastern Turkey, in mainly Kurdish-populated cities.
“It seems clear that Turkish authorities are imposing a complete blackout on the region. Many Kurdish cities, including Diyarbakır, don’t have internet access. Most of the Kurdish media outlets bringing news from the region are now closed. Kurds are facing the greatest censorship seen to date,” Ricardo Gutiérrez, European Federation of Journalists General Secretary, said in October.
Turkish authorities have closed at least 150 media outlets in the post-coup period, and mass trials are being held under the state of emergency launched after the failed coup.
According to a report released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Turkey was “the world’s worst jailer of journalists” for the third time in 2018. There are at least 142 journalists behind the bars in the country, according to the Turkish Journalists' Union.