An Istanbul court has placed nine journalists under arrest on suspicion of links to the alleged mastermind of the failed 2016 coup, the latest in a series of measures against Turkish media workers.

Turkish authorities issued arrest warrants on August 10 for 35 media employees accused of using the Bylock messaging app allegedly used by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen to mobilise followers in Turkey and of belonging to a “terror” group.

A total of 11 were detained at the time and late on Wednesday an Istanbul court placed nine under arrest ahead of trial and released two under judicial supervision, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Among the nine remanded in custody is the website editor at the leftist opposition Birgun daily Burak Ekici and the former news editor of the TV channel of Turkish football side Fenerbahce, Yasir Kaya.

Those released include a prominent former columnist for the Turkiye daily, Ahmet Sagirli. Anadolu said searches are continuing for the remaining 24 suspects, who are likely to have fled abroad.

The latest arrests come amid growing alarm over press freedom in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in particular under the state of emergency imposed in the wake of the failed July 2016 coup and which remains in place.

Gulen, an Islamic preacher who lives in the US state of Pennsylvania, denies any link to the botched putsch.

Turkey ranks 155 on the latest Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) world press freedom index, below Belarus and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the latest figures from the P24 press freedom website, there are 164 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were detained under the state of emergency.

In one of the highest profile cases, 17 staff from the Cumhuriyet daily, one of the few voices in the media in Turkey to oppose Erdogan, last month went on trial for aiding “terror” groups.

While most of the suspects in that case have been released from pre-trial detention, four Cumhuriyet journalists remain behind bars.

The crackdown has also affected foreign reporters and freelance French journalist Loup Bureau was detained last month on charges of links to a Kurdish militia Ankara regards as a terror group.

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