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Turkey seeks arrests at opposition newspaper Sozcu

Turkish authorities have issued arrest warrants for the owner and three employees of the opposition daily Sozcu. Officials accuse the newspaper of supporting people allegedly involved in last July's failed coup.

The executive in charge of the Sozcu website, Mediha Olgun, has been arrested while the owner of the daily newspaper, Burak Akbay, is being still sought by authorities as the crackdown on opposition media in Turkey continues.

Akbay may be outside of Turkey, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. The two others sought for arrest are correspondent Gokmen Ulu and financial executive Yonca Kaleli, according to the CNN Turk broadcaster, which keeps close ties with the government.

Sozcu's lawyer, Ismail Yilmaz, denied that arrest warrants had been issued, telling the private Dogan news agency that warrants had only been issued to seize and search their belongings. Yilmaz did, however, confirm that Mediha Olgun was in custody, adding that this could be in connection with another investigation.

Photography as a crime

The newspaper is accused of having ties to the so-called "Hizmet" movement led by the self-exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkish authorities blame Gulen, a former government ally, and his followers for the failed coup in July 2016, which cost more than 250 lives. Gulen, who lives in the US state of Pennsylvania,  denies those allegations.

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The pro-government daily Sabah reported that the suspects were wanted in connection with an online article published on the same day as the attempted coup, saying it could have facilitated "a real attack on the president."

The article in question, however, revealed only details of where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was spending his holiday in the Aegean resort town of Marmaris, featuring images of the hotel he was staying at. By the time the coup attempt took place, Erdogan had left the location.

Diminishing press freedom

With a daily print run of 270,000, Sozcu, whose name translates as "spokesman," is the third most-red paper in Turkey. Its fierce anti-government stance has earned it a following in various political camps that contest Erdogan's leadership and oppose his Justice and Development Party (AKP). Links to Gulen's Islamic "Hizmet" movement are seen as unlikely due to the paper's ultra-secularist stance.

Sozcu is the second high-circulation daily newspaper to be targeted by Turkish authorities after another leading opposition newspaper, Cumhuriyet, saw 20 staff members charged under the state of emergency imposed after the coup attempt. Turkish authorities have arrested over 150 journalists since the attempted putsch; Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Turkey's press freedom 155th of 180 countries in 2017. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) deemed Turkey to be the "worst country for media freedom."

The clampdown on Sozcu meanwhile coincided with May 19 celebrations across Turkey - a day, which traditionally commemorates and honors the onset of Turkey's liberation struggle under state founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's leadership in 1919.

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ss/sms (AFP, dpa)

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