The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) today called on the Turkish authorities to immediately release journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül and to drop all charges against them. The two reporters working for the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet were arrested yesterday in Istanbul following a judicial complaint initiated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on charges of “obtaining secret information concerning state security”, “political and military espionage”, “publishing confidential information” and “doing propaganda on behalf of a terror organization.”
According to media reports, all the charges are related to an article and footage released by Cumhuriyet on May 29 under the headline “Here are the weapons Erdogan claim not to exist”. The article showed images of the gendarmerie and police officers opening crates on the back of trucks which contained what the newspaper described as weapons and ammunition sent to rebel groups in Syria by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) in January 2014.
Following the publication of the article, President Erdogan threatened the Cumhuriyet journalists during a live television broadcast that “the person who made this special news will heavily pay for it.” In his criminal complaint, the Turkish President is requesting that each journalist be sentenced to one time aggravated life imprisonment, one time life imprisonment and a further 42 years in prison for “undermining state interest by using falsified images.”
In a joint statement, the IFJ and EFJ's Turkish affiliate Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) and Journalists Association of Turkey (TGC), backed by both Federations, strongly condemned the arrest.
“The publication of these articles in question was the duty of journalists towards the public opinion’s right to know. The public’s access to information must be guaranteed and respected. Journalists are not supposed to protect and defend state interests; this is the task of state authorities. The arrest of our colleagues Can Dündar and Erdem Gül is a violation of Turkey’s Constitution, the media law 5187, the Turkish penal code, the jurisprudence of the Turkish Constitutional Court and the European Convention on Human Rights,” said TGS-TGC.
Jim Boumelha, IFJ President, said “we know Can Dündar and the journalists working for Cumhuriyet newspaper well. Dündar was our keynote speaker during our international conference in Istanbul where he described how difficult it is to resist the oppression and never ending forms of prosecution. We demand the Turkish authorities immediately release Can Dündar and Erdem Gül and drop all charges against them”.
Mogens Blicher Bjerregard, EFJ President, said “these arrests will certainly be challenged in regard of articles 5 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights but in the meantime we cannot accept the detention of our colleagues in jail. The public’s right to know can only be guaranteed through the freedom of the press. This case also raises serious questions about the independence of the judiciary in Turkey. In the wake of the EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, Turkish authorities should correct the situation by releasing immediately our colleagues”.
The IFJ and EFJ will report this case to the Council of Europe’s platform for the protection and safety of journalists and to the Mapping Media Freedom platform supported by the European Commission.
For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16
The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 139 countries
The EFJ represents 320,000 journalists in 41 countries in Europe