Istanbul, Sep 1 () - Sözcü, a Turkish newspaper fiercely critical of the government, has left the slots for opinion columns on its front page empty to protest the government’s “increasing pressure.”
“If Sözcü is silent, Turkey will be silent” the newspaper’s headline said on Sept. 1, accusing President Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of “increasing pressure over the past year on opposition newspapers.”
Sözcü said it had faced 57 court cases and 67 criminal complaints over its news stories in the past year. Ten of its columnists were sued for compensation due to 60 articles, it added.
“President Erdoğan sues us for stories in which his name is not even mentioned. Stories mentioning his son’s or daughter’s name have become the subject of complaints. Their goal is to intimidate, pacify and control Sözcü and its columnists, while eliminating freedom of opinion and speech” a front page editorial said.
The statement also referred to a well-known social media whistleblower nicknamed Fuat Avni, who recently claimed on Twitter that the government was “planning an operation to silence critical media” before the Nov. 1 election.
“No one from the government comes up and refutes this ugly claim, at which [pro-government circles] laugh up their sleeve,” Sözcü added, before vowing to “keep writing the truth despite the pressure that was not seen even during the coup eras.”
On Sözcü’s front page on Sept. 1, an editorial written by Rahmi Turan, as well as column slots for Uğur Dündar, Bekir Coşkun, Yılmaz Özdil, Emin Çölaşan, Necati Doğru, Mehmet Türker, Saygı Öztürk, Soner Yalçın and Murat Muratoğlu were left empty.