The Turkish government has issued a new decree ordering the closure of scores of media organisations as it widened its crackdown in the wake of a failed coup attempt earlier this month.
According to the government decree, which was published in the official gazette of the republic late on Wednesday, three news agencies, 16 television channels, 23 radio stations, 45 daily newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishing houses have been ordered to shut down.
Among them are Zaman Newspaper, Samanyolu News Channel and Cihan News Agency, which have previously been accused of supporting the movement of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric and businessman blamed by the Turkish government for the failed coup bid on July 15.
A total of 1,684 members of the armed forces, including 127 generals and 32 admirals, were also being dismissed from the Turkish military as result of their alleged connections to the Gulen movement, according to the decree, the second to be issued under the powers of the state of emergency.
Interior ministry takes over key security force
In one of the most significant institutional changes since the coup attempt, the decree also announced that the gendarmerie and the coast guard would in future fall under the interior ministry and not the army.
The gendarmerie, which is responsible for public order in rural areas that fall outside the jurisdiction of police forces, as well as assuring internal security and general border control, had always been part of the military. Its removal is seen as a blow to the armed forces’ clout.
The decree will now move to parliament, which is dominated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). The legislature has oversight powers on such decrees, adopted as part of the state of emergency which entered into force on Thursday.
The new decree will come in to affect on July 29, according to Turkey’s state owned Anadolu Agency.
Last week, Erdogan issued another decree to close 2,341 institutions – including schools, charities, unions and medical centres – which are suspected to have connections to Gulen’s movement.
Since the failed coup attempt, 15,846 people, including soldiers, judges, prosecutors and civil service workers, have been detained. Of them, a total of 8,133 have been charged, according to the latest interior ministry figures.
The rapid pace of arrests since the failed coup has worried many of Turkey’s allies, who say they see the country going down an increasingly authoritarian road.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday expressed deep concerns about the ongoing wave of arrests in Turkey following the attempted coup.
In a phone conversation, Ban told Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that “credible evidence” must be presented swiftly so that the detainees’ legal status could be determined by a court of law.
Ban has spoken out repeatedly on the need for Turkey to respect freedom of speech and assembly and to uphold due process.
The UN chief “trusts that the government and people of Turkey will transform this moment of uncertainty into a moment of unity, preserving Turkey’s democracy,” Ban’s spokesman Farhan Haq said..
Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, on the other hand, warned that the crackdown and purge unleashed after the coup attempt was not over.
“The investigation is continuing. There are people who are being searched for. There could be new apprehensions, arrests and detentions,” Yildirim told Sky News, according to the network’s translation of his remarks.
“The process is not completed yet,” he added.
Turkey to close all army high schools
The Turkish government is also set to issue another decree to close down military high schools and restructure war academies in the wake of the failed coup attempt.
After the publication of the new decree on Thursday, all military high schools will be shut, and all cadets will be transferred to regular state schools, Al Jazeera Turk reported on Wednesday citing government sources.
A total of 8,651 soldiers took part in the failed coup attempt and 1,214 of these soldiers were “military students”, according to the Turkish military.
Immediately after the failed coup attempt, a total of 62 students at Kuleli Military School, the oldest such establishment in Istanbul, were arrested by Turkish authorities.
The cadets, aged between 14 and 17, were accused of having connections to the movement of US-based cleric and businessman Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan blames for the failed coup bid.
Their relatives have since denied the youths were willing participants in the coup attempt, saying they were summoned to school from vacation by commanders who duped them into taking part in the rebellion and deployed them on to Istanbul’s streets.
But, Turkish authorities continue to believe that the military’s educational institutions are mostly controlled and occupied by Gulen supporters.
“Government officials told us that some military cadets may not be connected to the Gulen organisation, but, they said at this stage it would be impossible for them to determine who is connected and who is not,” said Al Jazeera Turk’s Didem Ozel Tumer.
“They believe the [Gulen] organisation has been distributing answer keys for the military schools’ entrance exam.”
Turkish war academies, which offer university level education to prospective military officials, will also be affected by the new decree, expected to be issued on Thursday.
After the shake-up, these academies will continue to exist, but they will fall under the defence ministry and not the army, according to the Turkish pro-government daily Star.