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Ankara's Decision to Block Sputnik Site is 'Unacceptable' – Lawmaker

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Amid the ongoing scandal that erupted after Turkish authorities shut down Sputnik’s Turkish bureau last week and arrested its editor-in-chief, political officials and journalists from around the world began condemning the actions of the Turkish government.

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The website of Sputnik's Turkish bureau was blocked last Thursday by the Turkish telecommunications regulator as part of unclear "administrative measures" following a court ruling. The bureau's editor-in-chief, Tural Kerimov, was prevented from leaving an airport in Istanbul on Wednesday and stripped of his accreditation.

Co-leader of Turkey's left-wing pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, Selahattin Demirtas, harshly criticized the government and told Sputnik that free speech is going through one of the hardest times in Turkey's history.

"Today freedom of media in Turkey is going through one of the worst periods in history," Demirtas told Sputnik in an interview.

According to Demirtas, not only Turkish media, but also international news agencies are experiencing pressure from the Turkish government. A lot of journalists who worked for independent and opposition media agencies have lost their jobs. The government opened criminal cases against some media professionals.

"Under these circumstances what happened to Sputnik, unfortunately, is predictable, but it's absolutely unacceptable. There can be no justification for such attempts to interfere with the work of a respected International Agency," the leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party said.

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The shutdown of Sputnik's Turkish bureau and the detention of its editor-in-chief in the airport go against Turkish law. It's one of "the shameful examples of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's despotism," Demirtas added.

Sidiqollah Tauhidi, the head of the organization for the protection of the rights of Afghan journalists, agreed with Demirtas, saying that the situation with freedom of speech and freedom of the press is becoming really bad.

"Almost every word of journalists, as we can see from numerous examples of crackdown on both local and international media, goes through censorship," Tauhidi told Sputnik.

The Afghan journalist added the closure of media agencies and newspapers shows that the current Turkish government isn't interested in having freedom of speech and questions whether there are left any democratic institutions and democracy in Turkey.

Earlier this year, a high-profile scandal involving the arrest and trial of two Cumhuriyet newspaper journalists took place. Two reporters, Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, are currently involved in a closed-door trial, having been charged with espionage for an article in which they accused the Turkish government of providing arms to terrorist groups in Syria.

Sputnik is a news agency and radio network with multimedia news hubs in dozens of countries. Sputnik broadcasts through its websites in over 30 languages, as well as analog and digital radio, mobile apps and social media. Sputnik newswires, available by subscription, run around the clock in English, Arabic, Spanish and Chinese.    

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