Turkey’s communication authority blocked access to a critical news website on Thursday following the publication of the identity of a Turkish intelligence officer, who apparently died in clashes in Libya, the news portal said on Twitter.
The announcement by Odatv.com late on Thursday came after its news director Baris Terkoglu and reporter Hulya Kilinc were arrested on Wednesday in connection with the report published on Tuesday, during footage from the funeral of slain Turkish intelligence service (MIT) in the western province of Manisa was published.
On Friday, Baris Pehlivan, OdaTv’s editor-in-chief, was also summoned over the report to testify before the public prosecutor, who in turn has referred him to court with a request for arrest.
“Initiated in 2007, Odatv.com [website] cannot be reached as part of an administrative measure decision taken by the BTK [Turkish Information and Communication Technologies Authority]. We want to inform our readers that we will be defending our lawful rights to the end against this situation which has been happening for the first time in our broadcasting life,” the portal said on its Twitter account.
2007 yılında kurulan https://t.co/ASORxttoEf’a, BTK tarafından verilen idari tedbir kararı gereği erişim sağlanamamaktadır. Yayın hayatımızda ilk kez gerçekleşen bu duruma karşı hukuki haklarımızı sonuna kadar savunacağımızı okurlarımıza duyururuz.
— Odatv (@odatv) March 5, 2020
In the report, the portal said the funeral ceremony was held in silence without any attendance by the state officials, a situation which is unusual for public servants.
Terkoglu and Kilinc two have been arrested over charges of violating intelligence laws by compromising intelligence operations, and putting the officer’s family members in danger, Diken news portal said on Thursday.
The director said in his plea that their arrest was not related to their latest funeral news but related to their previous reports which revealed allegedly illegal networks nested in the state, according to OdaTv.
The arrest decision came even though the MIT officer’s identity had been previously revealed at a press conference at the Turkish Parliament by Umit Ozdag, a lawmaker from the opposition Good Party (IYI), OdaTV claimed.
Lawyers of the two have reportedly objected to the court’s ruling, saying it is not possible to reveal anything that has already been revealed, referring to the MP’s revelation.
Following his testimony before the prosecutor, the editor-in-chief commented on the judicial process against OdaTv.
“[Previously,] Baris Terkoglu and I were arrested and kept in the Silivri Prison for 19 months. We have overcome the walls [of the prison] and got out of there. [And then] we have kept on performing journalism,” said the editor-in-chief, referring to the Ergenekon trials.
Pehlivan added that OdaTv had not been shut down at the time.
Outside of Turkey, the website was still accessible on Friday, but it was not immediately clear if OdaTv staff could update it from within Turkey.
The blocking of access, as well as judicial moves against the journalists, have provoked a backlash among the opposition.
Ekrem Imamoglu, Istanbul’s mayor from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told reporters on Friday that the mentality of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government was damaging the dignity of the country.
“This mentality is the same with the one which canceled [the results of] the March 31 mayoral election [in Istanbul]. They [the AKP rulers] are betraying the prestige of this country. They first shut down OdaTv and then say that ‘we are democrats’. May God help you!” said the mayor.
Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) canceled the election results after the AKP had submitted an extraordinary objection. Later in the June 23 election rerun, Imamoglu again won the mayoralty this time by a greater margin.
The IYI leader Meral Aksener told Fox TV on Friday that the decision to block access to OdaTv was very wrong.
“We have already had very serious problems in terms of democracy. This [blocking] is a further move [in that regard],” said the IYI leader.
A total of 235 suspects in the Ergenekon case were accused of a conspiracy to overthrow the AKP government in its early years of ruling.
After being convicted in 2013, many of the Ergenekon suspects were released the following year due to a corruption investigation launched against senior AKP figures as part of a secret deal between the AKP and Ergenekon members, according to some analysts.