He was once one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s most strident champions, editor of a top English-language daily at the forefront of government-backed efforts to take on critics. Now, he’s one of scores of Turkish journalists branded terrorists and facing years behind bars.
Western leaders and press freedom groups have rallied around their cause and accused Turkey of an unprecedented crackdown on free speech. But after years of hurling inflammatory accusations, Mr. Kenes and other journalists aligned with a U.S.-based imam accused of masterminding a failed coup are having a harder time finding sympathy at home.
“They have burned bridges with every single constituency in Turkey,” said Aaron Stein, a Turkey specialist at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
Turkey has detained around 100 journalists for alleged links to Fethullah Gulen, at one time one of Mr. Erdogan’s most important allies and now his biggest foe, as well as more than 35,000 of the imam’s other alleged supporters in the government.
Turkey wants the U.S. to extradite Mr. Gulen, who has denied any responsibility for the July 15 coup attempt, in which 271 people died, including 31 coup plotters. Mr. Kenes, who is open about his ties to Mr. Gulen and also denies a role, has a warrant out for his arrest. Police officials declined to discuss his case.
He says he has gone into hiding to avoid being jailed. Twice in recent weeks, Mr. Kenes says, police have raided his Istanbul home.
The former editor of Today’s Zaman says he has stopped using credit cards so that Turkish intelligence can’t pinpoint his whereabouts. And now his cash is running low, he says.
Officials declined to discuss the cases.
Andrew Finkel, a longtime foreign correspondent based in Turkey and one-time Today’s Zaman columnist, was fired in 2011 after criticizing its tepid support of free speech after police arrested the author of a book critical of Mr. Gulen.
He argues that Turks must stand up for free speech, even among those with unpopular views or who refused to stand up for colleagues.
“Being unlikeable isn’t a crime,” said Mr. Finkel, a co-founder of P24, a press freedom group. Targeting pro-Kurdish papers is a sign that “this isn’t just a move against Gulenists, but an attempt to drain the swamp of potential foes.” / Read more at WSJ.