The sentencing of journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül to years in prison for sharing state secrets underscores how Turkey’s government is crushing critical voices. The trial follows Dündar and Gül’s investigative reporting on links between the Turkish intelligence services and arms to Islamist groups in Syria. Dundar has been sentenced to five years and 10 months, and Gul to five years.
Index on Censorship condemns this clearly political ruling and calls for an end to judicial harassment of Dündar, Gül and all journalists in the country. The country’s drastic decline has been well documented by Index’s Mapping Media Freedom project and Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index. The closure of the seized Zaman newspaper group is only one recent example of the government’s draconian attitude toward independent media.
“The Turkish government is now resorting to locking up journalists like Dündar and Gül, who sought to reveal information of public interest, something journalists around the world do every day. Yet they are paying a heavy price. The sentencing is an example of an ongoing decline in Turkey’s attitude to freedom. It has entered a new dark age where the truth is forbidden and even a hint of dissent is not tolerated,” Melody Patry, senior advocacy officer, Index on Censorship, said.
From the outset of the case in November 2015, Dündar, the editor-in-chief of daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, and Gül, head of the paper’s Ankara bureau, were accused of spying and terrorism after the paper published evidence in May 2015 of Turkey’s intelligence services’ involvement in Syria’s civil war. In the wake of the revelations, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey, publicly declared that Dundar and his paper “will pay for this”.
Dündar nearly paid with his life. Shortly before a court issued his sentence, a man identified in Daily Sabah as Murat Şahin attempted to shoot the editor, but was thwarted by the intervention of Dundar’s wife and an onlooker.
Both Dündar and Gül are free on bail as they appeal their sentences.