Turkey blocks newspaper for publishing reports on soldiers in Libya

Two journalists from the Yeni Yasan website have been sentenced to more than four years in prison for "divulging documents related to intelligence activities".
The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan

PHOTO/AP  -   The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The Turkish authorities blocked the website of the newspaper Yeni Yasam after the publication of the prison sentences for its editor and news director.
In a statement, the newspaper explained that the Communications and Technology Authority had implemented the decision issued on September 15. Previously, the Hatay Magistrate's and Criminal Court had issued a ban on browsing the newspaper's website.

On 9 September, prison sentences were handed down to the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Mehmet Ferhat Çelik, and its news director, Aydin Kasr, following reports of funerals for dead soldiers in Libya.

The two journalists have been sentenced to more than 4 years in prison and are accused of disseminating information and documents related to intelligence activities. Turkish prosecutors' investigation of the journalists was based on the publication of the identity of a field officer from the National Intelligence Agency, MIT, who served and died in Libya, where Turkey supports the Tripoli government. Prosecutors said that journalists had disclosed important information about intelligence activities and documents and had endangered relatives and colleagues of intelligence agents.

Ankara is playing a major role in the conflict in the North African nation, especially since the agreement signed in November last year between Ankara and the Tripoli-based National Accord Government (NAG) led by Fayez Sarraj. As part of this security and economic co-operation agreement, Turkey has stepped up its presence in Libya, sending mercenaries and dozens of shipments of military equipment, with the ultimate aim of increasing its presence in the eastern Mediterranean and gaining direct access to Libyan oil fields.

Libya's civil war has become internationalised and foreign intervention has multiplied. In addition to the support of Turkey, the GNA is backed by the United Nations, Qatar and Italy; while the Libyan National Army (LNA, led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar) receives support from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and France.

Although the Turkish court handed down prison sentences to five journalists from the newspaper, three of them were released, after taking into account that they had been in prison for more than six months.

Human rights groups and opposition parties had asked the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan to release the journalists. According to Reporters Without Borders, it has denounced how violence against journalists has increased, especially after the 2019 municipal elections, with a tense election campaign where "dozens of local journalists were victims of attacks".

According to the Turkish journalists' union, 72 journalists and media workers are currently in prison. Turkey is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

Since the failed coup d'état in 2016, the Erdogan government has closed down 70 newspapers, 20 magazines, 34 radio stations and 33 TV channels as part of the repression against critics of the Turkish administration.