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Turkish government cracking down on media critics, groups say

July 24, 2013

By Gul Tuysuz and Ivan Watson

Istanbul (CNN) — A pro-government newspaper in Turkey fired its ombudsman this week. The dismissal came as a prominent journalists’ union and the main opposition party warned of a broad government crackdown against the Turkish press.

“All the independent voices are now being silenced,” said Yavuz Baydar in an interview with CNN, a day after he said management of the newspaper Sabah fired him.

When contacted by CNN, staff and representatives of the public relations department at Sabah declined to comment on the allegation.

Baydar is a former president and current board member of the International Organization of News Ombudsmen. He spent eight and a half years holding the position of ombudsman at Sabah. The ombudsman is supposed to be an independent critic at the publication who reflects the criticisms and concerns of the readers.

However, Baydar said editors at the paper had cut two of his columns in the past two months, after he tried to criticize the newspaper’s coverage of anti-government protests that erupted in Istanbul and spread across Turkey at the end of May.

The unrest exploded on May 31, after Turkish riot police used water cannons and tear gas to attack a peaceful sit-in established in opposition to government plans to replace Istanbul’s Gezi Park with a shopping mall.

Some demonstrators began fighting back, erecting barricades and attacking security forces with stones, bottles and slingshots.

The mass civil disobedience and rioting quickly spread to other cities and towns across the country.

Thousands of people have been wounded in clashes. At least one police officer and five demonstrators have died in the unrest.

By mid-June, police had largely succeeded in quelling the protests. In recent weeks, dozens of demonstrators have been detained by anti-terror police

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly claimed that the protests in Turkey are part of a much larger conspiracy aimed at overthrowing his democratically elected government. Read more at CNN.

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