Advocacy group launches campaign for the release of jailed journalist Ünal

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Journalist Mustafa Ünal

Jailed Journos, an advocacy organization that helps members of the jailed press in Turkey get their stories heard, on Tuesday launched a social media campaign for the release of veteran journalist Mustafa Ünal, who has been jailed for more than five years for political reasons, Turkish Minute reported.

In a tweet, Jailed Journos asked the columnist of the daily Sözcü Deniz Zeyrek, the columnist of the daily Hürriyet Abdülkadir Selvi, the columnist Cumhuriyet Mustafa Balbay, the columnist Yenişafak Mehmet Acet and the journalist Mustafa Kartoğallu, “who knew him well ”, to support their campaign for his release.

The organization also appealed to former President Abdullah Gül, former Deputy Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament Bülent Arınç and Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül, in addition to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “who knew very well. well Ünal and invited him several times in his private plane ”. to show their support for the jailed journalist.

Ünal, 53, a veteran journalist and former head of the Ankara bureau of the now-closed daily Zaman, was arrested after an attempted military coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016 and sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison by a man from Istanbul. court in July 2018 for membership of a terrorist organization. He is serving his sentence in Sincan prison in Ankara.

The daily Zaman, which was the best-selling newspaper in Turkey, was closed along with dozens of other media outlets due to their links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group that focuses on science education, volunteering, community engagement, social work and interfaith and intercultural dialogue and draws on the teachings of Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen.

Erdoğan has led a crackdown on supporters of the movement since the corruption investigations from December 17 to 25, 2013, which involved then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his entourage. Designating the group as a terrorist organization, Erdoğan stepped up the crackdown on the movement following the July 2016 coup attempt, which he accused Gülen of organizing. Gülen and the movement firmly deny any involvement in the failed coup or any terrorist activity.

A number of Ünal colleagues shared posts under the hashtag #FreeMustafaUnal as part of the online campaign launched by Jailed Journos on Tuesday.

“What did he do? He wrote columns! That’s it,” journalist Said Sefa said in a tweet, also using the hashtag # gazeteciliksuçdeğildir (Journalism is not a crime) and criticizing the terrorism charges against Ünal, which are based on nine of his columns.

“There is nothing in Mustafa Ünal’s indictment. They tried to make a few quotes from his writings a crime. All media representatives in Ankara knew about his journalism, but none of them made noise [about the politically motivated charges he faced]. … What a pity, ”journalist Cevheri Güven tweeted on Tuesday.

“Mustafa Ünal is a criminal because he was a journalist. The cost of doing journalism as part of the [ruling Justice and Development Party] The AKP regime is [being sent to] jail! We will continue to shout ‘Journalism is not a crime!’ Said journalist Hasan Cücük.

Turkey, which is among the top jailers of journalists in the world, was ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2021 global press freedom ranking published in April.

According to the Stockholm Freedom Center’s “Journalists Imprisoned and Wanted in Turkey” database, 174 journalists are behind bars in Turkey and 167 are wanted and in exile or at large. The database was last updated on April 14, 2021.

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