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Turkey Is Investigating a Major Media Group for Alleged 'Terrorism Propaganda'

Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into Dogan Media Group, a partial owner of CNN’s partner network in Turkey and the newspaper 'Hurriyet.'
September 15, 2015, 10:45pm
Photo by Sedat Suna/EPA

Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into Dogan Media Group, a part owner of CNN's sister network in Turkey, for alleged "terrorism propaganda," authorities said on Tuesday, a move likely to deepen concern about the media's freedom to criticize government policy.

The investigation comes just days after the offices of one Dogan newspaper, the mass circulation Hurriyet, was attacked by pro-government crowds who accused it of sympathizing with the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

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Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin confirmed the investigation into Dogan but declined to give any details.

Turkey's Anadolu Agency said the inquiry was launched after a complaint from a pro-government newspaper, which cited the publication of uncensored photographs of dead Turkish soldiers and an interview with someone who later joined the PKK.

Related: Curfews, Commandos, and a Car Bomb: Nine Dead as Fighting Escalates in Turkey

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's efforts to settle a PKK insurgency in southeastern Turkey through a truce and talks all but collapsed in July with a resurgence of fighting. Hundreds of Turkish soldiers have been killed, along with thousands from the ranks of the PKK, which is classified as a terrorist group by the United States, European Union, and Turkey.

Anadolu said the complaint also cited the publication of a photograph of leftist militants holding a gun to the head of a prosecutor in a deadly hostage stand-off earlier this year.

No one was immediately available for comment at Dogan. One group newspaper, Radikal, said on its website, in reference to an article in the pro-government daily Gunes: "They took a story full of lies seriously and started an investigation."

Government reaction to media criticism of its policies, as well as Erdogan's frequent battles with the media, have helped to land NATO member Turkey near the bottom of global press freedom rankings. Scores of people have been investigated on accusations of insulting Erdogan, who remains Turkey's most popular politician after more than a decade in power.

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Turkish authorities also descended on the offices of local magazine Nokta on Monday to retrieve copies of a recent issue that included a depiction of Erdogan posing for a selfie at a funeral for a Turkish soldier, the BBC reported.

Dogan Media and its listed parent company, Dogan Holding, are no strangers to Erdogan's ire. In May, Dogan was suspended from state tenders after Erdogan accused its head, Aydin Dogan, of being a "coup lover" and described its media columnists as "charlatans."

Related: Why News as You Know It Wouldn't Exist Without 'Fixers'

In 2009, Dogan Media was fined $2.5 billion for unpaid taxes in what many critics saw as an attempt to crush media criticism of Erdogan. This followed Dogan's coverage of corruption allegations against figures close to Erdogan. As a result, Dogan was forced to sell the group's Milliyet and Vatan newspapers, the Star TV channel, and other holdings.

At the end of August, three members of a VICE News team were detained while reporting in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir. A Turkish court accused the journalists of "working on behalf of a terrorist organization." British journalists Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury were released from prison on September 3. Mohammed Ismael Rasool, an Iraqi fixer based in Turkey, is still being held.

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