The Association of European Journalists protests in the strongest terms against the arrest on Thursday evening of Can Dundar, the editor in chief of Cumhuriyet daily newspaper and Erdem Gul, the paper’s Ankara bureau chief. Both men were arrested and detained in Silivri High Security Prison on charges of terrorist propaganda, being members of armed organization, spying and revealing state secrets. .
These are the latest in a wave of arrests and detentions of Turkish journalists and editors which have brought widespread international criticism. On Friday thousands of journalists and others took part in public protests in several cities, including Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
The arrests followed the publication by Cumhurriyet in May of this year of a report alleging that the Turkish intelligence organization MIT had mounted an operation to deliver weapons to rebel groups in Syria. The report included photographs which the newspaper said were taken in January of Turkish trucks travelling from Turkey towards Syria.
The trucks had been intercepted and searched by local security forces. Cumhuriyet reported that they had been found to contain arms which were being smuggled into Syria for use by militant groups. The government rejected that account as treasonous and claimed that the trucks were carrying humanitarian aid to Turkmen communities inside Syria.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally denounced Can Dundar and initiated his prosecution, saying he would pay a heavy price for his action in publishing the reports.
Dogan Tilic, the spokesperson of the G-9 Journalists Platform which includes the AEJ Turkish section, spoke at the protest in Ankara, describing the arrest of the two journalists as the latest example of a ‘campaign of total destruction’ against freedom of expression by the AK party government.
During the Ankara demonstration police fired tear gas against the protesters, including opposition parliamentarians. Some of the MPs and several journalists were injured and an opposition MP required treatment in hospital.