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HomeHeadlineTurkey's Disturbing Crackdown on Press Freedom: Nazlı Ilıcak's Second Arrest Raises Concerns

Turkey’s Disturbing Crackdown on Press Freedom: Nazlı Ilıcak’s Second Arrest Raises Concerns

The Turkish government’s recent arrest of 79-year-old journalist Nazlı Ilıcak for the second time is a troubling development that further underscores the country’s deteriorating press freedom and human rights situation. Ilıcak, a veteran journalist with a long and storied career, has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for alleged libel against a public prosecutor, Orhan Kapıcı.

The charges stem from an article Ilıcak wrote in 2016 for the now-closed Özgür Düşünce (Free Opinion) website, where she mentioned a group called Milli Damar (National Vein) within the Turkish bureaucracy, allegedly conspiring against other bureaucrats and having ties to terrorist groups. Prosecutor Kapıcı was implicated in this group, leading to the libel charges against Ilıcak.

While the Turkish judicial system typically suspends short sentences, Ilıcak’s earlier conviction on charges of espionage, which was suspended, compels her to serve time in prison. Her lawyer, Kemal Ertuğ Derin, revealed that Ilıcak, who had hoped to serve her sentence at an open prison, will be kept in a closed prison due to the earlier espionage conviction.

This isn’t the first time Ilıcak has faced imprisonment for her journalistic activities. In the aftermath of the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, she was among the many journalists arrested as part of the government’s crackdown on dissidents. Accused of being associated with the Gülen movement, Ilıcak was initially sentenced to life in prison, a conviction later overturned, and she was re-sentenced to eight years, nine months.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in December 2021 that the charges leading to Ilıcak’s imprisonment for over three years were not plausible grounds for terrorism-related accusations. The court criticized Turkey for violating Ilıcak’s rights to liberty and security, as well as freedom of expression, stating that her work for Gülen-affiliated media outlets and expressing doubts about the government’s narrative on the coup were not legitimate reasons for terrorism charges.

Ilıcak’s case is emblematic of a broader trend in Turkey, where the government, led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been accused of suppressing dissent and curtailing press freedom. The journalist’s journey from a respected figure in media to facing repeated imprisonments highlights the challenges journalists face in Turkey when expressing critical views, particularly those critical of the ruling AKP government.

Ilıcak’s history of political engagement, including her brief stint in parliament with the Virtue Party, adds another layer to her story. Her vocal opposition to the AKP government, especially after the corruption investigations of December 2013, has made her a target for intimidation and legal action.

The international community must pay attention to the plight of journalists like Nazlı Ilıcak, as their cases reflect the broader erosion of democratic values and human rights in Turkey. The government’s continued crackdown on press freedom raises serious concerns about the state of democracy and the rule of law in the country.

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