Erdogan's Turkey: The World's Biggest Prison for Journalists

By: Joanna Hong

Two decades ago a man stood in front of a large rally in Istanbul and read out a few lines of poetry. Soon after, he was arrested and sent to prison for inciting religious hatred. Today, that same man presides over a government that is imprisoning poets, writers and journalists on an industrial scale.

Indeed, under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has become the world’s biggest jailer of journalists with more than 150 imprisoned since the failed coup attempt in July 2016. They have been charged with terrorism offences as a result of articles they have written, posts they have shared on social media or opinions they expressed. Several, such as Ahmet Altan, have received life sentences.

More than 180 media outlets have been shut down and an estimated 2,500 journalists and other media workers have lost their jobs. Unsurprisingly this year’s Word Press Freedom Index placed Turkey 157 out of 180 countries, sandwiched between Rwanda and Kazakhstan. Perhaps more surprising is the fact that of all the imprisoned journalists in the world, one third are languishing in Turkish prisons.

UK’s Saudi Partners Are Masters of Repression: British Writer

By Kenan Malik

British writer and columnist Kenan Malik has stressed that the persecution of activists in Saudi Arabia and war in Yemen show talk of reform in the kingdom is a charade

Five Saudi activists face possible execution. Their crimes? “Participating in protests”, “chanting slogans hostile to the regime” and “filming protests and publishing on social media”.

The five, including women’s rights campaigner Israa al-Ghomgham, from an Eastern Province. They have spent more than two years in prison. Now the prosecution has demanded their deaths.

Their plight reveals the vacuity of claims that Saudi Arabia is “liberalising”. The death in 2015 of King Abdullah and his replacement by Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has led to much gushing in the west about the new reforming regime and, in particular, about the “vision” of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, heir apparent and driving force behind the “modernisation” moves.

Yes, Salman has allowed women to drive, to run their own businesses and to attend sports events. Cinemas have opened and rock concerts been staged. But the king remains the absolute ruler of a kingdom that practices torture, beheads dissidents and exports a barbarous foreign policy, including prosecuting one of the most brutal wars of modern times in Yemen.

Deeper Look at White Helmets: Syrian 'Civil Defense' NGO or Terrorists' PR Arm?

The Trump administration's reported halt to the flow of aid funding to the White Helmets, an NGO characterized in the West as a rescue organization and reviled in Damascus as 'al-Qaeda's civil defense', has prompted a debate about the organization's future, Sputnik investigates.

White Helmets' head Raed Saleh has confirmed that State Department cut funding to his organization, previously amounting to a third of the group's total budget, has stopped in recent weeks. The frozen funding is part of a larger $200 million aid package frozen in March and remains "under review," according to the State Department.

Skripal Poison Story Just Another Episode in West's Propaganda Campaign to Corral Russia

By Finian Cunningham

There are many reasons for doubting the official British position blaming Russia for the Sergei Skripal poisoning. This week's 'diplomacy dramatics' of mass Russian expulsions are just too contrived to be taken seriously.

Two factors raising doubt stand out in particular: the unseemly, impossible rush to judgment and carnival of reaction; and, secondly, the immediate, concerted follow-up demand being made on Russia to "change its behavior."

The cause-and-effect sequence here is just too neat to be left to random events. Within days of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia having apparently been poisoned in a public space in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, senior British government officials were accusing Russia of attempted assassination.

Saudi Access to Nuclear Material Should Be ‘Strictly Limited’: US State Senator

TEHRAN– Richard Black, a Republican member of the Virginia State Senate, described Saudi Arabia as a regime with “inherently violent philosophy and history”, saying he is distrustful of a nuclear Saudi Arabia and that Riyadh's access to nuclear material should be “strictly limited”.

“I distrust Saudi Arabia with nuclear facilities. Considering their vast oil resources, what is the real purpose of acquiring nuclear power plants? A nation with Saudi Arabia’s inherently violent philosophy and history should not have nuclear material at all. Saudis are the source of almost every act of global terrorism today. They paid and trained terrorists to invade Syria and other sovereign nations. They fund radical madrassas that teach young men to devote their lives to raping, murdering and enslaving others,” Sen. Black told the Tasnim news agency.

 He added, “…I would prefer if their access to nuclear material were strictly limited.”

Fake News Alert: Media Stirred Over White Helmets' 'New' Horror Movie

Pictures showing the White Helmets' filmmaking studio in Syria's Eastern Ghouta have appeared on social media, prompting numerous news agencies to assume that the group is producing another "documentary" movie about alleged "atrocities" of the Syrian government.

According to Sputnik, Syrian activist Penelope Stafyla posted the footage to her Facebook profile to show the "media industry" and the "Hollywood production" of the White Helmets; the images featured fake human limbs, theatrical grease-paint, a plastic bottle with some substance that looked like blood, etc. Stafyla suggested that the group was shooting another film to demonize the Syrian government and accuse it of using chemical weapons against civilians.

Sochi Paves Solid Way for Syrian Peaceful Settlement, Now Geneva's Turn

SOCHI- The National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, a pinnacle event of the Russian diplomacy on Syria, has agreed to set up the Constitutional Commission out of the Syrians themselves and to give it in hands of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, to dispel any doubts that the forum was meant to disrespect UN Security Council.

The main objective of the Congress, which has been prepared by the Russian defense and foreign ministries over the last months and managed to bring together some 1,500 Syrians in the Black Sea resort city, was to launch the process of a constitutional review. This, obviously, gave de Mistura many worries, as constitution and elections have been his major focus during the last rounds of Geneva intra-Syrian talks, which never succeeded.