ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s opposition leader accused the government on Friday of using emergency powers from the aftermath of a failed coup to clamp down on dissenting voices, as authorities ordered 12 more news organizations to shut down for alleged threats to national security.
Turkey declared a state of emergency in the wake of the failed military coup on July 15, arresting thousands of people linked to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom it accuses of orchestrating the attempt. Gülen has denied any knowledge of the attempted coup.
Dozens of Turkish news outlets associated with Gülen’s movement have also been closed down and dozens of journalists and other employees jailed.
The government later extended the crackdown to pro-Kurdish news outlets for alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants. On Thursday, the state-run 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.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party, or CHP, told journalists on Friday that the government was “opportunistically” using the coup to go after opponents.
“The issue is beyond detaining Gülenists. They are using the coup as an opportunity to bolster the administration and silence the opposition. We are currently in a period where everyone is being silenced,” Kilicdaroglu said.
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 news outlets or journalists are not for their journalistic activities but for links to terror groups.
Turkey’s 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 suspected coup plotters and people suspected of links to the Gülen movement, which Turkey has branded a terror organization.
Some 32,000 people have been arrested and tens of thousands of others have been dismissed or suspended from government jobs including in the education ministry, the military, the police and the judiciary.
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 Thursday that the measure could be prolonged to one year or beyond.
Kilicdaroglu said his party was opposed to extending the emergency rule.
“We opposed the state of emergency as it was first introduced,” Kilicdaroglu said. “If a new proposal is brought to parliament to extend it, we will oppose that too.”
The Turkish Journalists Association says more than 100 journalists have been arrested since the state of emergency was declared, 2,500 others journalists have lost their jobs and hundreds have had their press credentials canceled by the government.
Those arrested include novelist Asli Erdogan, who also wrote for the pro-Kurdish Ozgur Gundem newspaper.
In a sign that emergency powers are being used for purposes other than cracking down on 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 “murder, physical injury and threats.”