Turkey charges magazine journalists with 'coup plot'

Istanbul (AFP) - Turkish prosecutors on Tuesday charged two opposition journalists with plotting a coup over a magazine cover criticising President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's election win.

"Nokta editor-in-chief Cevheri Guven and managing editor Murat Capan were arrested on charges of attempting to overthrow the government by force," the magazine wrote on Twitter.

Police on Monday had raided the Istanbul offices of the left-wing Nokta and detained the two editors over the cover that read: "The start of civil war in Turkey".

An Istanbul court later ordered that the magazine's latest edition be withdrawn from the shelves, accusing it of inciting the public to commit a crime.

In his initial testimony published by Nokta, Guven denied the charges, saying it was impossible to incite people to "take up arms and fight" with a magazine that had been prepared well before the election.

The move comes after Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) swept to an unexpected victory in an election on Sunday that international observers said was marred by a media crackdown, violence and other security concerns.

- 'Political thuggery' -

The White House on Monday voiced concerns at the "intimidation" of Turkish journalists during the campaign.

"Are you serving democracy, or a coup?" Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said in the interview with NTV television, referring to Nokta.

"Press morality goes hand-in-hand with the press freedom," he said, rejecting Western complaints of a media crackdown.

Gursel Tekin, secretary-general of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), said the arrests were the "harbinger of wider troubles to come" under the AKP's new term.

"What we are facing is political thuggery and a state where the law has been put on the shelf," he told Nokta after the arrests.

Nokta had been raided in September by the authorities for another cover satirising Erdogan.

A string of incidents over the past few months have included attacks on the offices of the Hurriyet newspaper and an assault on a leading journalist, Ahmet Hakan, as well as the arrest and detention of journalists working for Vice News.

Just days ahead of the election, riot police stormed two television stations owned by the Koza-Ipek conglomerate over its links with a US-exiled cleric who is now Erdogan's arch-foe, action that caused global alarm.

A total of 58 journalists were dismissed Tuesday from the group's media operations, whose managements were taken over by Turkish authorities, the opposition Zaman newspaper said.

Turkey was the world's top jailer of journalists in 2012 and 2013, ahead of Iran and China, according to the international Committee to Protect Journalists, before improving to 10th place in 2014.

Rights groups say about 20 journalists are detained on a variety of charges, and several journalists, artists and even schoolboys have been prosecuted for "insulting" the head of state.

Erdogan has previously insisted his country has "the freest press in the world".

But Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 149th out of 180 in its 2015 press freedom index last month, warning of a "dangerous surge in censorship".

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