European Federation of Journalists

EFJ-IFJ urge Turkey to immediately release Can Dündar and Erdem Gül

The European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ-IFJ) are today (27/11/2015) calling on the Turkish authorities to immediately release journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül and drop all charges against them. The two journalists working for the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet have been arrested yesterday in Istanbul following a judicial complain initiated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on charges of “procuring information as to state security”, “political and military espionage”, “declaring confidential information” and “doing propaganda on behalf of a terror organization”.

All accusations are in fact based on the article and footage released by Cumhuriyet on May 29 with the headline “Here are the weapons Erdogan claim to not exist” showing 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.

Can Dündar during the keynote speech of the EFJ-IFJ international conference in Istanbul, financially supported by the EU. (MK/EFJ)
Can Dündar during a keynote speech at the EFJ-IFJ-TGS-TGC international conference on press freedom in Istanbul, an action financially supported by the EU. (MK/EFJ)

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 journalists 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, Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS, EFJ-IFJ affiliate) and Journalists Association of Turkey (TGC), backed by EFJ-IFJ, have strongly condemned the arrest. “The publication of those articles in question were the duty of journalists towards the public opinion’s right to know. 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. The public’s right to know can only be guaranteed with freedom of the press. This case also raise serious questions about the independence of the judiciairy in Turkey. In the wake of the EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, Turkish authorities should correct the situation by releasing immediately our colleagues”.

The EFJ-IFJ 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.

Credit Photo : frontpage Cumhuriyet newspaper