ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish authorities have ordered 12 more news organizations closed down for alleged threats to national security, the state-run news agency reported Friday, amid growing concerns that the government is using emergency powers intended to deal with the aftermath of a failed coup to target opposition voices.
Turkey declared a state of emergency in the wake of the events of July 15, arresting thousands of people linked to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom it accuses of orchestrating the attempt. Dozens of news outlets associated with Gulen's movement have also been closed down, while dozens of journalists and other employees were jailed.
The government later extended the crackdown to pro-Kurdish news outlets for alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants and on Thursday, the Anadolu Agency reported that the country's broadcasting watchdog ordered 12 more television stations closed for alleged links to terror organizations or groups that threaten national security.
Other news reports said the stations ordered closed late Thursday are mostly pro-Kurdish or left-leaning — and include, Zarok TV, a children's channel broadcasting cartoons dubbed into Kurdish as well as a station playing Kurdish folk songs.
Turkish and international journalism groups denounced the latest media crackdown.
"After silencing much of the critical press, Turkey is now targeting a wide swath of cultural and political expression by shuttering minority broadcasters," said Robert Mahoney, executive director of the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists. "When the government sees even children's programming as a threat to national security, it is clearly abusing its emergency powers."
The Turkish Journalists Association said in a statement: "Journalists that do not share the views of the government are being targeted and taken into custody through false accusations. The government should stop targeting journalists who work for the public's right to information and to learn the truth."
Government officials have insisted that moves against the news outlets or journalists are not for their journalistic activities but for links to terror groups.
The state of emergency allows the government to rule through decrees with little parliamentary or judiciary oversight. It was declared on July 20 to help authorities to move swiftly against the coup plotters and people suspected of links to the Gulen movement, which Turkey has branded a terror organization.
The country's highest national security body, chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recommended this week that the three-month state of emergency be extended by a further three months. Erdogan, however, hinted on Thursday that the measure could be prolonged to one year or beyond.
The Turkish Journalists Association says more than 100 journalists have been arrested since the state of emergency was declared. Some 2,500 journalists lost their jobs while hundreds have had their press credentials canceled by the government, it said.
In a sign that the emergency powers were being used for purposes other than cracking down terror groups, the governor in the central Turkish province of Yozgat closed down several establishments serving alcohol, on grounds that such places were leading to crimes such as "murder, physical injury and threats."