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UN Journalist Canikligil Arrested & Freed in Turkey For Past Tweets, Spin

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 21 -- On June 20 Inner City Press was alerted that UN correspondent Razi Canikligil had been detained by authorities at the airport in Istanbul. The detention had to do with his tweets, a previous arrest warrant mysteriously still on the books. Both Inner City Press and the Free UN Coalition for Access (FUNCA) quickly tweeted the news, then dug more into it.

   An inquiry with the Turkish Mission to the UN led to a response, online here, that the arrest was “due to technical mistake after an individual court case, not tweets.” While appreciative of the response, it is not entirely correct that the arrest was not due to tweets.

The newspaper account the Turkish mission directed FUNCA to says “ a local court in Ankara had issued an arrest warrant for Canikligil in 2015 over his social media posts after a complaint from Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) head Rifat Hisarciklioglu.”

 It also references the UN Correspondents Association, an organization that pushed to get the Press thrown out not only of the UN Press Briefing Room but of its long time office, to be given to a former UNCA President from Egyptian state media who rarely comes into the UN and never asks questions. We'll have more on this.

Relatedly, as the Egyptian government steps up its crackdown on the media, in late May arresting Yahia Galash, head of the Press Syndicate and senior board members Khaled Elbalshy and Gamal Abd el-Reheem, the Sisi-supporting media has stayed quiet or participated.

This includes Akhbar Elyom, the publication to which the UN of Ban Ki-moon is giving the long time shared office space of Inner City Press, from which the UN evicted Inner City Press on April 14 (see New York Times of May 14, here).

On May 31 Inner City Press - not Akhbar Elyom - asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the crackdown in Egypt. Video here, UN Transcript here:

Inner City Press: in Egypt.  I’m waiting for a statement there…  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  They apply across the board.  We, obviously, have seen the reports of new charges being brought against the Union of Journalists in Egypt.  We remain concerned at the situation.  We’re following it closely. 

 If Team Ban saw the crackdown and was so concerned, why did it issue no statement until asked by Inner City Press? Why is it giving Inner City Press' long time UN office to Egyptian state media Akhbar Elyom, whose rarely seen correspondent Sanaa Youssef, a former President of the UN Correspondents Association, asks no questions at all?  Perhaps the question answers itself. We'll have more on this.

 This while Ban Ki-moon speaks about "authoritarian impulses" and ostensibly for press freedom, while campaigning in South Korea. (See article in Korean here, robo-translation here.)

Meanwhile the Committee to Protect Journalists has said
“Authorities are pursuing Yehia Qallash, Khaled al-Balshy, and Gamal Abdel Rahim for trying to defend the Egyptian media against a thin-skinned and brutal security apparatus," CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said. "We call on Egyptian prosecutors to drop these charges immediately and stop harassing journalists."

  But CPJ has yet to speak on Ban's UN evicting the investigative press, much less on Ban then giving Inner City Press' UN shared office to Egyptian state media Akhbar Elyom. We'll have more on this.


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