Turkey arrests journalists for report on funeral of intel officer killed in Libya

Turkey is ranked as one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to freedom of the press

FILE PHOTO: A journalist of pro-Kurdish Ozgur Gundem gives an interview to a German TV channel at their newsroom before a protest against the arrest of three prominent campaigners for press freedom, in front of the pro-Kurdish Ozgur Gundem newspaper in central Istanbul, Turkey, June 21, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo
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Two Turkish journalists face up to nine years in prison over a report on the funeral of a Turkish intelligence officer apparently killed in Libya, local media reported Thursday.

News director Baris Terkoglu and reporter Hulya Kilinc were detained earlier this week after a video was published on the OdaTV website claiming to show the officer's quiet burial, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.

The journalists were taken to an Istanbul court on Wednesday which formally arrested them on suspicion of disclosing the identity of an intelligence agency official, state news agency Anadolu said.

The Istanbul court has now also ordered the arrest of Baris Pehlivan, the editor-in-chief of the OdaTV website.

OdaTV published the officer's first name and the initial of his last name, reporting that he was buried in the western province of Manisa, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said.

The news site responded that an opposition lawmaker had already revealed the officer's identity.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu criticised the report in an interview with CNN Turk.

"There is such a thing as state secrets, national security secrets," he said.

Pehlivan was also arrested in 2011, together with Terkoglu, and spent 19 months in prison in connection with an alleged conspiracy to overthrow the AK Party government then led by now-President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

They were later released along with many others and the case later fell apart.

The judges and prosecutors overseeing that case are now charged with being followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey blames for masterminding the July 2016 coup.

Turkey says it has sent dozens of military personnel for training purposes to support the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli as it heads off an assault by eastern Libyan’s Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, but denies they are engaged in active fighting.

RSF ranks Turkey 157th out of 180 countries for press freedom, and the CPJ said 47 journalists were behind bars in December.