A court in Istanbul has charged two journalists from the pro-secular Cumhuriyet newspaper with spying following they alleged Turkey’s secret solutions had sent arms to Islamist rebels in Syria.
Do not worry, this ruling is nothing but a badge of honour to us.
Cumhuriyet newspaper editor-in-chief Can Dundar
Editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, are accused of spying and “divulging state secrets”, Turkish media reports said. Both men had been placed in pre-trial detention.
According to Cumhuriyet, Turkish safety forces in January 2014 intercepted a convoy of trucks close to the Syrian border and discovered boxes of what the day-to-day described as weapons and ammunition to be sent to rebels fighting against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
It linked the seized trucks to the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MIT).
The revelations, published in May, caused a political storm in Turkey, with an enraged president Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowing Dundar would spend a “heavy value”.
He personally filed a criminal complaint against Dundar, demanding he serve several life sentences.
Turkey has vehemently denied aiding Islamist rebels in Syria, such as the Islamic State group, though it desires to see Mr Assad toppled.
“Don’t worry, this ruling is practically nothing but a badge of honour to us,” Dundar told reporters and civil society representatives at the court just before he was taken into custody.
If these two journalists are imprisoned, it will be added evidence that the Turkish authorities are prepared to use methods worthy of a bygone age in order to suppress independent journalism in Turkey.
RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire
Reporters With no Borders (RSF) had earlier urged the judge hearing the case to dismiss the charges against the pair, condemning the trial as “political persecution”.
The Cumhuriyet daily was awarded the media watchdog’s 2015 Press Freedom Prize just last week, with Dundar travelling to Strasbourg to obtain the award.
“If these two journalists are imprisoned, it will be extra evidence that the Turkish authorities are prepared to use approaches worthy of a bygone age in order to suppress independent journalism in Turkey,” said RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire in a statement.
Reporters Without having Borders ranked Turkey 149th out of 180 in its 2015 press freedom index final month, warning of a “unsafe surge in censorship”.
Topics: unrest-conflict-and-war, censorship, media, print-media, data-and-communication, turkey