World Press Freedom Day should bring freedom for Musa Kart and his Cumhuriyet colleagues


Musa Kart

Musa Kart

Index on Censorship joins Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) to report that the internationally acclaimed cartoonist Musa Kart is again a prisoner this World Press Freedom Day.

In November 2016 Musa Kart was one of a number of staff from the Cumhuriyet newspaper arrested without charge. He and his colleagues’ subsequent months in Silivri prison would be described as unlawful by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, “being in contravention of articles 10, 11 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of articles 14, 15 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.

In April 2017 he was formally indicted with “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member” and “abusing trust”, prosecutors stipulating a maximum sentence of twenty-nine years. His trial began in July 2017. His funny, excoriating opening statement is worth reading in full.

After twelve months of court proceedings (arduous litigation being a well-worn censorious tactic) Kart was eventually found guilty and sentenced to three years and nine months. The appeals lodged on behalf of all those who received shorter sentences during the Cumhuriyet trials failed in February this year. Kart was informed he would be required to go to prison for one year and sixteen days.

On April 25th he and five colleagues – board members Önder Çelik and M.Kemal Güngör, news director Hakan Kara, columnist Güray Öz and financial officer Emre İper – decided to hand themselves in at Kandıra prison, a typically dignified and brave gesture.

Musa’s ultimate incarceration represents the culmination of fifteen years of persecution by then prime minister, now President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who twice tried and twice failed to use court action to silence the cartoonist in 2005 and 2014.

As those who have followed recent history in Turkey will be aware, the attempted coup of July 2016 and the subsequent state of emergency provided Erdoğan the pretext required to round up many of his perceived enemies in academia, local government, the military, press and media. His victory in the April 2017 referendum, granting the president greater powers, and subsequent re-election in 2018 have only entrenched his position. In survey after survey Turkey remains the world’s number one jailer of journalists.

Kart is a past winner of CRNI’s Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award, was given the Cartooning For Peace Swiss Foundation’s Prix International du Dessin de Presse last year and is currently the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Maison du Dessin de Presse, Morges. He formally retired from cartooning in December 2017.

The undersigned organizations join Index and CRNI in calling for the immediate release of Musa Kart and his five courageous colleagues and the dismissal of all charges against the criminalised former staff of Cumhuriyet. This World Press Freedom Day we express our solidarity with all those suffering in the protracted and unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey, and call for its end.

Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)
Bytes for All (B4A)
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building (CEMESP)
Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Free Media Movement
Independent Journalism Center (IJC)
Index on Censorship
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Press Institute (IPI) 
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Media Watch
Norwegian PEN
PEN America
PEN Canada
PEN International
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM)
South East Europe Media Organisation 
Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
Articolo 21
Civic Spaces Studies Association – Turkey
Danish PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
German PEN
Global Editors Network
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa
Swedish PEN[/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1556869431554-27d0cab8-ff70-3″ taxonomies=”55″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Cumhuriyet journalists: Imprisoned for changing editorial policy


People gather in support of the Cumhuriyet defendants as the trial got underway.

People gather in support of the Cumhuriyet defendants as the trial got underway.

Executives and columnists of Turkey’s critical Cumhuriyet daily go on trial this week, beginning Monday 24 July. The indictment seeks prison sentences for the defendants varying between 7.5 to 43 years. The charges for those on the board of the Cumhuriyet Foundation, which oversees the newspaper, include “abuse of power in office,” but all are accused of “supporting terrorist organisations” mainly through changes that have occurred in the paper’s editorial policy following the election of a new board to the foundation in 2013.

The prosecution’s claims are supported by views of several media experts — most of whom are former executives or employees terminated from various positions, according to Aydın Engin, a Cumhuriyet columnist who is also a defendant in the case although he was released pending trial due to his advanced age.

As Engin says “Cumhuriyet changed its editorial policy: this is the essence of the indictment.”

Indeed, the 435-page long document laments, page after page, that Cumhuriyet ditched its traditional, Kemalist, unyieldingly secularist and statist editorial policy and became a more open-minded newspaper.

The prosecutor states that by altering its editorial stance, the newspaper became a supporter of the so-called Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ/PYD) — the name Turkish authorities give to the Fethullah Gülen network, which they say was behind last year’s coup attempt –, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK/KCK) and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C); three organizations with unrelated if not completely opposing worldviews.

“A newspaper changing its editorial policy cannot possibly be the subject of an indictment,” Engin says.

But did Cumhuriyet really change its editorial policy to legitimise the actions of FETÖ/PDY; PKK/KCK and DHKP/C as the prosecutor claims? “Every newspaper makes editorial policy changes as life unfolds. Cumhuriyet also did this. The paper caught up with the general tendencies in society such as increasing demand for freedoms, human rights and a stronger civil society.”

Engin says many of the witnesses who have testified against the Cumhuriyet journalists have been discredited as media professionals. “When I told the prosecutor that I will not respond to claims by people who have no reputation as journalists, he showed me a post by Professor Halil Berktay, who tweeted that ‘Cumhruiyet has become FETÖ’s media outlet.’ The prosecutor said, ‘This from a professor. Who are you to deny its validity?’

Engin: old and tired

Will any of the Cumhuriyet journalists be released at the end of this week? “I don’t even want to being to make any assumptions. This is not a legal trial; it is entirely political,” Engin replies, adding: “I strongly need them, personally, because I am 76 and tired,” says the energetic-looking journalist, who, as he speaks, is interrupted by someone asking him to sign a financial document. “See, I don’t even know what I just signed, I don’t know anything about these things.”

According to Engin, because those imprisoned are the key people to the newspaper’s operations, Cumhuriyet is now “half-paralyzed.”

But really, who are those in prison?

“Our brightest colleagues are in the can. Akın Atalay, is our CEO and I am a first-hand witness of how he has managed to keep the newspaper on its feet.  Murat Sabuncu, he is perhaps one of the two or three finest journalists I know who can smell the news. He is publicly unheard of but Önder Çelik: he has been with Cumhuriyet for 35 years, he is the finest expert at things such as analyzing circulation reports, maintaining relations with printing houses; following paper prices..”

“I really need them to get out, but I don’t want to be dreaming.”[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_separator color=”black”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_custom_heading text=”Turkey” font_container=”tag:p|font_size:30|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes” link=”|||”][vc_column_text]Index on Censorship monitors press freedom in Turkey and 41 other European area nations.

As of 24/07/2017, there were 496 verified reports of media freedom violations associated with Turkey in the Mapping Media Freedom database.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”94623″ img_size=”full” onclick=”custom_link” link=””][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_separator color=”black”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]The  journalists on trial for the first time on 24 – 28 July:

Akın Atalay (Cumhuriyet Foundation Executive President; imprisoned since Nov. 12, 2016): Facing 11 to 43 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member” and “abusing trust”

Atalay graduated from İstanbul University Law School in 1985. He has acted as the founding member of a number of civil society organisations and his academic studies on press freedom and the law have appeared in a large number of academic journals and newspapers. Since 1993, he has represented Cumhuriyet columnists and reporters as legal counsel. Currently, he is the newspaper’s executive president.

Bülent Utku (Cumhuriyet Foundation Board Member, attorney representing Cumhuriyet; imprisoned since Nov. 5, 2016). Facing 9.5 to 29 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member” and “abusing trust”

Utku has worked as an attorney for 33 years. Since 1993, he has worked as a lawyer for Cumhuriyet columnists and journalists. He is also a member of the Cumhuriyet Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Murat Sabuncu (editor-in-chief, imprisoned since Nov. 5). Facing 7.5 to 15 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member” [Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Article 314/2]

Sabuncu has been a journalist for 20 years. He started working at Cumhuriyet in 2014 as the newsroom coordinator. In July 2016, he took the helm as editor-in-chief.

Kadri Gürsel (publications advisor, columnist, imprisoned since Nov. 5, 2015). Facing 7.5 to 15 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member”

A journalist of 28 years, Gürsel started writing columns in Cumhuriyet in May 2016. He assumed the position of publications advisor for the newspaper in September 2016.

Güray Öz (board member, news ombudsman, columnist, imprisoned since Nov. 5, 2015). Facing 8.5 to 22 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member” and a single count of “abuse of power in office”

Öz has been a journalist for 21 years. He has worked at Cumhuriyet since 2006. He is a columnist for the newspaper and has been its ombudsman since 2013. Öz is also on the board of directors of the Cumhuriyet Foundation.

Önder Çelik (board member, imprisoned since Nov. 5, 2016). Facing 11.5 to 43 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member”  and four counts of “abuse of power in office”

Önder Çelik has been a newspaper administrator for 35 years. He has worked as the print coordinator for the newspaper between 1981 – 1998. He returned to the same position in 2002 after a hiatus. He has been an executive board member since 2014 as well as a board member of the foundation.

Turhan Günay (editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet’s book supplement, imprisoned since Nov. 5, 2016). Facing 8.5 to 22 years for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member” and a single count of “abuse of power in office”

A journalist for 48 years, Günay has been with Cumhuriyet since 1987. For the past 25 years, he has worked as the chief editor for Cumhuriyet’s literary supplement, the country’s longest running weekly publication on books. The indictment insists he is a board member of the foundation; although he isn’t; a fact he reiterated in his testimony to the prosecutor.

Musa Kart

Musa Kart

Musa Kart (Cartoonist, board member, imprisoned since Nov. 5, 2016) Facing 9.5 to 29 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member” and “abusing trust”

Musa Kart, one of Turkey’s most renowned cartoonists, has been drawing political cartoons for 33 years. He has been a Cumhuriyet journalist since 1985. For the past six years, Kart has drawn the front-page cartoons for Cumhuriyet.

Hakan Karasinir (board member, imprisoned since Nov. 5). Facing 9.5 to 29 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member” and two counts of “abuse of power in office”

Hakan Karasinir has been a journalist for 34 years. He has been with Cumhuriyet for 34 years. In the past he has held various editorial positions, including serving as the newspaper’s managing editor between 1994 and 2014. Since 2014, he has also written columns in the newspaper.

Mustafa Kemal Güngör (attorney, board member, imprisoned since Nov. 5, 2016). Facing 9.5 to 29 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member”; two counts of “abuse of power in office”

Mustafa Kemal Güngör has been a lawyer for 31 years. He has defended Cumhuriyet journalists and columnists in court since 2013.

Can Dundar

Can Dundar

Can Dündar (former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, currently resides abroad). Facing 7.5 to 15 years for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member”

Perhaps the most internationally famous of all Cumhuriyet defendants, Can Dündar was the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet until August 2016. He was arrested in November 2015 after Cumhuriyet published footage suggesting that the Turkish government sent weapons to armed jihadi groups in Syria. He was released in February 2016, a few months after which he moved to Germany where he currently resides.

Orhan Erinç (Cumhuriyet Foundation Board President, columnist). Facing 11.5 to 43 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organization while not being a member” ; four counts of “abuse of power in office”

Veteran journalist Orhan Erinç, who worked for Cumhuriyet as a young reporter, returned to the newspaper in 1993 as its publications advisor. For nearly half a decade, Erinç also held the position of vice president at Turkish Journalists’ Association. He is also a columnist for Cumhuriyet.

Aydın Engin (columnist, released under judicial control measures). Facing 7.5 to 15 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organization while not being a member”

Cumhuriyet columnist Aydın Engin has been a journalist since 1969. He has participated in the founding process for many news outlets, including Turkey’s Birgün daily. He worked as a columnist and reporter for Cumhuriyet between 1992 and 2002. He returned to the newspaper in 2015.

Hikmet Çetinkaya (columnist, board member, released under judicial control). Facing 9.5 to 29 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member”; two counts of “abuse of power in office”

Çetinkaya has been with Cumhuriyet for three decades. In the past, the columnist worked as the İzmir Bureau Chief of the newspaper. He was also tried in 2015 along with Cumhuriyet columnist Ceyda Karan for reprinting the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in his column.

Ahmet Şık (Correspondent, imprisoned since Dec. 30, 2016). Facing 7.5 to 15 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member”

No stranger to Turkish prisons, Ahmet Şık worked as a reporter for Cumhuriyret, Evrensel, Yeni Yüzyıl, Nokta and Reuters between 1991 and 2007. He remained in prison for a year in 2011 in an investigation about a shady gang called Ergenekon, believed to be nested within Turkey’s state hierarchy. He is known as one of the most vocal critics of the Fethullah Gülen network.

İlhan Tanır (former Washington correspondent, resides abroad). Facing 7.5 to 15 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organisation while not being a member”

İlhan Tanır previously reported from Washington for Cumhuriyet. His reports and analyses have appeared in many national and international publications. He currently resides in the United States.

Bülent Yener (Finance Manager). Facing 7.5 to 15 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organization while not being a member”

A former financial affairs manager with Cumhuriyet, Bülent Yener was released after one day in custody.

Günseli Özaltay (Accounting Manager). Facing 7.5 to 15 years in prison for “helping a terrorist organization while not being a member”

Günseli Özaltay, the newspaper’s accounting manager, was released after one day in custody.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1500894514864-6349d62e-4ed7-3″ taxonomies=”8607″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Targeted cartoonists show support for Charlie Hebdo

In October, Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart was the subject of a global solidarity campaign from his fellow artists. Kart was facing nine years in jail for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erodgan through a caricature for Cumhuriyet, where he commented on Erdogan’s alleged hand in covering up a high-profile corruption scandal. In response, his colleagues from around the world rallied in support of Kart, publishing their own #ErdoganCaricature on Twitter, and he was acquitted of the charges. This time, Kart is joining cartoonists in standing with Charlie Hebdo.

Editorial cartoon courtesy Musa Kart

Cartoon courtesy Musa Kart

Kart told Index he feels “so sorry” and he has “lost his brothers” in last Wednesday’s brutal attack on the French satirical magazine’s offices, where 12 people — including cartoonists Stéphane Charbonnier aka Charb, Jean Cabut aka Cabu, Georges Wolinski and Bernard Verlhac aka Tignous — were killed.

Kart also ran into trouble with Turkish authorities back in 2005, when he was fined 5,000 Turkish lira for drawing then-Prime Minister Erdogan as a cat entangled in yarn. Kart puts the spotlight on Erdogan’s chequered history with cartoonists rights in a second piece, where the president declares that: “I condemn the attack. Ten years prison would have been enough for the cartoonists.”

musa- 9 OCAK

TV: “Massacre in Paris. Twelve dead.” President Erdogan: “I condemn the attack. 10 years prison would have been enough for the cartoonists.”

Erdogan condemned the “heinous terrorist attack” and Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu joined last Sunday’s march for unity in Paris. Much has been made of the apparent hypocrisy of world leaders who have suppressed free speech at home, taking part in what many considered a defiant show of support for that very right.

As Index CEO Jodie Ginsberg pointed out, Turkey imprisons more journalists than any other country in the world. Index’s media freedom map has received 72 reports of press freedom violations from Turkey since May 2014 alone. In the wake of the attacks in Paris, other Turkish cartoonists have been threatened by pro-government social media users. Police also raided the printing press of Cumhuriyet, as it prepared to publish selections from today’s issue of Charlie Hebdo.

Ecuadorian cartoonist Xavier Bonilla — known as Bonil — has also been targeted for his work.  In 2013, the country got a new communications law which allows the government to fine and prosecute the media. After drawing a cartoon for El Universo, based on a raid on the home of a journalist and opposition advisor, Bonil became a victim of the new legislation. President Rafael Correa — who has been known to personally file lawsuits against critical journalists — ordered that a case be opened against the cartoonist. It found that his piece had invited social unrest and should be “rectified”, while El Universo was fined $92,000.

“I believe that humour is the best antidote to fear and the best defence against abuses of power. I have been drawing for 30 years, and I am not going to back down,” he wrote in an article in the current issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

Below are his cartoons in support of Charlie Hebdo.


Cartoon courtesy of Bonil


“New ‘religion’: extremism”



This article was posted on 14 January 2015 at

Life is getting harder for objective journalists in Turkey, says cartoonist sued by Erdogan

(Image: Ben Jennings)

Cartoonists like Ben Jennings rallied around Musa Kart when he faced jail over a caricature of Turkey’s President Erdogan (Credit: Ben Jennings)

Not long ago Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart faced the prospect of spending nine years behind bars, simply for doing his job.

Taken to court by the Turkey’s President (and former Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself, Kart last week stood trial for insult and slander over a caricature published in newspaper Cumhuriyet in February. Commenting on Erdogan’s alleged hand in covering up a high-profile corruption scandal, the cartoon depicted him as a hologram keeping a watchful eye over a robbery.

While Kart was finally acquitted last Thursday, his case was just starting to hit international headlines — in no small part due to the swift reaction from colleagues around the world. In the online #erdogancaricature campaign initiated by British cartoonist Martin Rowson, his fellow artists shared their own drawings of the president. With Erdogan reimagined as everything from a balloon, to a crying baby, to Frankenstein’s monster, the show of solidarity soon went viral.

“This campaign has showed me once again that I m a member of world cartoonists family. I am deeply moved and honoured by their support,” Kart told Index in an email.

Kart has been battling the criminal charges since February. His defiance was clear for all to see when he told the court on Thursday that “I think that we are inside a cartoon right now”, referring to the fact that he was in the suspect’s seat while charges against people involved in the graft scandal had been dropped.

He remains defiant today: “Erdogan would have either let an independent judiciary process to be cleared or repressed his opponents. He chose the second way,” he said. “It’s a well known fact that Erdogan is trying to repress and isolate the opponents by reshaping the laws and the judiciary and by countless prosecutions and libel suits against journalists.”

This isn’t the first time Kart has run into trouble with Erdogan. Back in 2005, he was fined 5,000 Turkish lira for drawing the then-prime minister as a cat entangled in yarn. The cartoon represented the controversy that surrounded Turkey’s highest administrative court rejecting new legislation that Erdogan had campaigned on.

“I have always believed that cartoon humour is a very unique and effective way to express our ideas and to reach people and it contributes to a better and more tolerant world,” he explained when questioned on where he finds the strength to keep going.

It remains unclear whether the story ends with this latest acquittal decision. While the charges against Kart were dropped earlier this year, an appeal from Erdogan saw the case reopened. “Erdogan’s lawyers will…take the case to the upper court,” he said.

Kart’s experience is far from unique; free expression is a thorny issues in Erdogan’s Turkey. In the past year alone, authorities temporarily banned Twitter and YouTube and introduced controversial internet legislation. Meanwhile journalists, like the Economist’s Amberin Zaman, have been continuously targeted, as Index on Censorship’s media freedom map shows.

Kart is not optimistic about the future of press freedom in his country: “Unfortunately, day by day, life is getting harder for independent and objective journalists in Turkey.”

This article was originally posted on 31 October at