Erdogan Warning Media Yields Blackout on Turks Captured in Iraq

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked local media not to talk about Turks captured by an al-Qaeda offshoot in Iraq. A day later it was the law.

An Ankara court yesterday ordered a full media blackout on news about the captives, who were seized on June 11 in Mosul by members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, according to a statement today by RTUK, the television and radio watchdog. The ban came a day after Erdogan urged news media to “follow the process without writing, drawing or talking about it too much.”

The blackout is intended to secure the safety of those taken captive, according to a summary of the court order on RTUK’s website. The restrictions will be in place until “the investigation is completed,” it said without elaborating.

Blackouts have been imposed at least three times this year to try and plug leaks and address what the government says are national security concerns. A similar ban was ordered in March for a leaked tape purporting to show military planning related to neighboring Syria. Reza Zarrab, who was accused of bribing Turkish ministers to facilitate billions of dollars of gold exports to Iran, also successfully won a press blackout for reporting on his case in January.

Turkey is ranked 154th of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, dropping from 113th in 2004. U.S.-based media watchdog Freedom House downgraded the country to “not free” from “partly free” in its report this year.

After leaks alleging corruption in Erdogan’s government were published on the microblogging service Twitter and Google Inc.’s video sharing website YouTube, the government blocked the services. Access was restored after local elections on March 30, when the constitutional court ruled the bans unconstitutional.

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