Turkey announced the dismissal of more than 2,400 military personnel Wednesday and shut down scores of media outlets in what appeared to be a widening crackdown following the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
At least one journalist was taken into custody and arrest warrants were issued for nearly 50 former members of the editorial staff of the country’s largest daily, Zaman. The U.S. State Department said such moves against news media represent a «troubling trend.»
State-run and private news outlets in Turkey reported 45 daily newspapers have been ordered to shut down, along with three news agencies and 16 television companies. Arrest warrants were issued earlier for 42 individual journalists, 16 of whom are already in custody.
Wednesday’s developments are likely to increase concern among rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies about the extent of the purge President Erdogan has ordered in the aftermath of the coup attempt on July 15-16.
Most of the newly issued arrest warrants were targeted at journalists allegedly affiliated with the U.S.-based Muslim cleric whom the Erdogan government claims was the mastermind of the attempt to overturn failed coup earlier this month.
Zaman, which was placed under state control four months ago, had been closely connected with the movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Since March the newspaper has taken a strongly pro-government stance in its reporting.
The crackdown on journalists comes as part of a wider purge of government officials and academic leaders following the coup, which left nearly 300 people dead.
A Turkish-American association has expressed deep concerns about events in Turkey’s universities and mass suspension of faculty deans, and has urged government leaders to elevate democracy and academic freedom in the country.
In a statement posted Wednesday on its website, the Turkish-American Scientists and Scholars Association (TASSA) said it is very worried about “the long-term adverse impact that recent events might have on higher education, academic freedom, and scientific advancement in Turkey.” The group said it hopes “normalcy is achieved very soon” and that “the deans are reinstated.”
The scholars’ reaction followed a statement by the Council of Higher Education of Turkey which said that “decisions limiting the fundamental rights and liberties are made in case of state of emergency.” The Council said it agrees with rectors who asked the deans to step aside temporarily, during investigations into the coup.
“It is very likely most of the universities will be able to reinstate their deans back to their duties once the review process is completed,” the statement said.
Turkish media reported last week that the country’s higher education board demanded the resignations of 1,577 university deans, while the education ministry had fired 15,200 teachers across the country.
Authorities at the interior ministry dismissed nearly 9,000 employees, it has been reported, and the finance ministry fired 1,500 people. Hundreds more were fired in the religious affairs directorate, the family and social policy ministry and the prime minister’s office.
In total, about 10,000 Turkish officials have been detained and another 50,000 have been suspended in less than two weeks.
Some material for this report came from AP, AFP and Reuters.