Prominent Turkish journalist Ahmet Sik said on Thursday he was being detained by authorities over a Twitter statement he made and state media and an opposition lawmaker who spoke to him said the reporter was being accused of terrorist propaganda.
“I am being detained,” Sik said on Twitter. “I am going to be taken to the prosecutor’s office over a tweet.” Turkish prosecutors could not be reached for comment.
State-run Anadolu news agency said Sik was accused of terrorist propaganda and insulting the state, its judiciary, military and police through several Twitter posts and his work on the Cumhuriyet daily, one of the few newspapers still critical of the government.
The more than half a dozen tweets mentioned by Anadolu that were part of the investigation were largely about the state’s fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, while one was about this month’s killing of the Russian ambassador in Ankara.
Baris Yarkadas, a lawmaker for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), also said on Twitter that he spoke to Sik who told him that he was being accused of terrorist propaganda.
At least 81 journalists are imprisoned in Turkey, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), with more than 130 media outlets shut since a failed coup in July. Journalists and writers are largely facing charges of terrorist propaganda.
Authorities have detained, suspended or dismissed more than 110,000 civil servants, police, academics and others over suspected links with Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric blamed by Ankara for orchestrating the coup.
Ankara says the crackdown is justified by the threat posed by Gulen’s network, which it says is a terrorist organisation. Gulen, who lives in the United States, denies the charges.
The scale of the crackdown has alarmed Turkey’s Western allies and foreign investors. Human rights groups and opposition parties say President Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to muzzle dissent.
Sik himself is a longtime critic of Gulen. In 2011 he was jailed for a year over a book on the cleric’s life, one of several court cases that led to the imprisonment of hundreds of soldiers and journalists who said they were targets of Gulenist judges and prosecutors.
The convictions were overturned and the cases thrown out.
Separately, prize-winning novelist Asli Erdogan and linguist Necmiye Alpay appeared in court. They and seven other staff from a pro-Kurdish newspaper closed by authorities face charges of belonging to a terrorist organisation and harming national unity.
Prosecutors are seeking sentences of up to life in prison for some of the defendants. Alpay and Erdogan, who is not related to the Turkish president, pleaded not guilty. It was their first hearing since being jailed pending trial in August.
“We don’t see as justified any journalist being prosecuted, detained or arrested due to their opinions,” lawmaker Yarkadas told Reuters outside the Istanbul courthouse where he was attending the hearing.
The PKK, which has carried out a three-decade armed insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, is considered a terrorist group by Europe, the United States and Turkey. (Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by David Dolan and Alison Williams)