The POMED Wire

Media Bans Substantiate Claims of Deteriorating Press Freedoms in Turkey

Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, PennsylvaniaPhoto Credit: Reuters

Correspondents from the Zaman and Bugun newspapers, the Samanyolu TV station and Cihan news reported that they have been shut out of official press events since the inauguration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. These media organizations have ties to U.S.-based Islamic preacher, Fethullah Gulen, whom President Erdogan has accused of building a “parallel state” of loyalists in key state institutions, including the police and the judiciary. Erdogan publicly called for Gulen’s extradition to Turkey to answer for corruption charges and accusations of attempting to orchestrate a “judicial coup.”

Gulen is the leader of “Hizmet,” an Islamic service network, which Erdogan himself leveraged in his ascent to power. Reuters reported that Hizmet’s influence in the judiciary was key to the jailing of former military regime leaders and politicians. However, the alliance has devolved into a power struggle between Erdogan and Gulen. Erdogan’s abuse of press freedoms has drawn sharp criticism from the European Commission, which raised concerns about press freedom in the country and called on Erdogan’s government to “promote dialogue across the political spectrum.”

Journalist and PhD candidate, Alparslan Akkus, claimed that although Turkey’s suppression of the media is no secret, “the tools they …

Egypt to Try Five al-Azhar Students In Military Court

apPhoto Credit: AP

The Egyptian government announced that five al-Azhar students charged with rioting, belonging to a terrorist group, and arson, will be tried in a military court rather than a civil criminal court. A Cairo criminal court ruled that the case fell outside of its jurisdiction. On October 27, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved a measure which expanded the authority of military courts to try civilians accused of interfering with state property or blocking roads. The measure is set to last two years, and also allows army forces to support police in guarding public properties.

Magmoud Salman, a lawyer with the No To Military Trials for Civilians organization, accused the military court of applying Sisi’s October 27 measure retrospectively, because the student’s incident occurred before the measure was enacted. Students with the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, an anti-government Islamist group, have staged numerous protests on university campuses. Subsequently, police have frequently raided universities to disperse protests. Ahmed Mefreh, a legal researcher at the Alkarama Foundation for human rights, said, “International law does not allow for civilians to be tried by military courts, this is a clear militarization of the country.”

Youssof Salhen, spokesperson for …

Former Tehran Prosecutor Disbarred Over Death and Torture of Protesters

Mortazavi BBC NewsPhoto Credit: BBC News

Former Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, a former ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was disbarred and banned from all positions in the Iranian government, for five years, and was barred for life from holding any judicial post. He was found guilty of ordering the torture of at least three protesters, including the son of a prominent conservative politician, who died in custody in 2009, during the Green Movement protests.

The Supreme Court upheld the ruling of a lower court from last year that had found him, in addition to two deputies, guilty of filing false reports and unlawfully arresting protesters in 2009, whom they then had transferred to the notorious Kahrizak prison. The case “embarassed Iranian authorities and ignited fierce criticism of the government and its treatment of those detained over the protests.” In the same year, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had ordered the closure of Kahrizak prison and Mortazavi was suspended from his post “over allegations of wrongdoing.” His critics also dubbed him “the butcher of the press,” as he was largely responsible for the shutdown of 120 reformist neswpapers and the arrest of dozens of journalists and political activists during his …

Tunisian NGO Founder Speaks of Tunisia as an Example of Good Governance for the Region

Open Society released a video by Amira Yahyaoui, a Tunisian activist who was “active against Ben Ali‘s regime as a member of the Tunisian anti-censorship and freedom of speech movement.” After the revolution, Yahyaoui founded Al-Bawsala, a Tunisian public policy NGO that works on promoting and advocating for human rights, good governance, citizen inclusion, and accountability in the country. It also holds a platform, ‘marsad.tn’ that “monitors the work of the Tunisian parliament and local city halls across the country using new technologies to make information, such as budget analysis and the performance of officials, accessible to citizens.” In the video, Yahyaoui speaks of Tunisia as an “example” for the Arab world of what can be achieved in terms of good governance.

Meanwhile, Ennahda announced on Twitter Saturday  its decision not to endorse a presidential candidate, “to leave [the] choice to members to elect [a] president who guarantees democracy,” but urged Tunisians to vote. The decision came after an overnight meeting of Ennahda’s consultative council. The president of the council, Fethi Ayadi, said that Ennahda called on “its members to choose the correct person who will lead the democratic process… and realize the goals of the revolution.” …

State Dept Spokesperson Discusses U.S. Business Delegation to Egypt

Photo Credit: Toledo Blade

On Tuesday, representatives from more than 60 U.S. companies wrapped up a visit to Egypt, described as “the largest such delegation in history that aimed to explore potential businesses to boost the country’s ailing economy.” The Delegates of the conference met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, “stayed clear of politics” and “listened to his vision for improving the economy and the pressures he faces.” A personal envoy from Secretary John Kerry, Ambassador David Thorne, was also present. Before the visit, Kerry stated that “a critical component of Egypt’s success is economic growth driven by policy reform, a message the delegation will deliver to Egyptian authorities.”

The U.S. delegation visit was criticized, in particular because of it coinciding with the deadline imposed by the Egyptian authorities for civil society groups to register under a restrictive law, or face prosecution. The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, wrote on Twitter last week, “What could have possessed State Dept to sponsor business delegation to Egypt on day Sisi threatens to decimate NGOs.”

During Wednesday’s daily State Department Press Briefing, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki was confronted by questions from the audience regarding the message the …

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