First as prime minister and now as president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been waging a methodical crackdown on the media in Turkey for years. Erdogan is persecuting journalists of all colours in an increasingly ferocious manner in the name of combatting terrorism and defending state security. The Erdogan regime’s arrests, threats and intimidation are unworthy of a democracy.
Can Dündar, the editor-in-chief of the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, and his Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, have been held since the evening of 26 November. They are charged with spying and terrorism because last May they published evidence of arms deliveries by the Turkish intelligence services to Islamist groups in Syria. Both are exemplars of journalism, the search for truth and the defence of freedoms. President Erdogan publicly said that Dündar “will pay for this.” But Cumhuriyet’s journalists just did their job, publishing information that was in the public interest.
At a time when international terrorism is at the centre of everyone’s concerns, it is unacceptable that political prosecutions are used to suppress investigative reporting and exposés. The arrest of these two journalists is the latest extreme to which political use of the Turkish judicial system has been taken. Many journalists have been detained on spurious charges of terrorist propaganda and insulting President Erdogan. The regime has also been using economic levers to put growing pressure on the media, while draconian laws have been passed.
We, public figures, media freedom NGOs and unions, reject the blatant erosion of media freedom in Turkey. The country is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Index’s Mapping Media Freedom project has recorded 178 verified reports of media violations since May 2014.
We appeal to the Turkish authorities to free Can Dündar and Erdem Gül without delay, to drop all charges against them, and to free all other journalists who are currently detained in connection with their journalism or the opinions they have expressed.
We also urge the institutions and governments of democratic countries to face up to their responsibilities to respond to President Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian excesses.
Günter Wallraff, journalist, Germany
Noam Chomsky, linguist, USA
Edgar Morin, sociologist, France
Carl Bernstein, journalist, USA
Zülfü Livaneli, writer, Turkey
Ali Dilem, cartoonist, Algeria
Thomas Piketty, economist, France
Claudia Roth, politician, Germany
Paul Steiger, journalist, United States
Kamel Labidi, journalist, Tunisia
John R McArthur, media executive, USA
Fazil Say, pianist, Turkey
Peter Price, media executive, USA
Edwy Plenel, media executive, France
Jim Hoagland, journalist, USA
Ahmet İnsel, political analyst, Turkey
Eric Chol, newspaper editor, France
Nedim Gürsel, writer, Turkey
Cem Özdemir, Green Party copresident, Germany
Hakan Günday, writer, Turkey
Mikis Theodorakis, composer, Greece
Per Westberg, writer, Sweden
Louise Belfrage, journalist, Sweden
Ali Anouzla, journalist, Morocco
Omar Bellouchet, journalist, Algeria
Jack Lang, former government minister, France
Omar Brouksy, journalist, Morocco
Pierre Haski, journalist, France
Jay Weissberg, cinema critic, USA
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Committee to Project Journalists, (CPJ)
International Press Institute (IPI)
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WANIFRA)
Index on Censorship
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Ethical Journalism Network (EJN)
Global Editors Network (GEN)
Turkish Association of Journalists (TGC)
Turkish Union of Journalists (TGS)
Mapping Media Freedom