International campaign grows against ‘dictatorship’ threat to Turkish journalists and free expression
Reporters Without Borders today appealed to EU leaders to do all in their power to rescue journalism in Turkey, where over 100 journalists have been jailed as suspected terrorists and over 700 press cards have been rescinded. Exiled Turkish newspaper editor Can Dundar warns that the coming referendum on changing the Turkish constitution could lead to the country becoming a dictatorship.
The Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) poster and social media campaign accuses six European leaders — Angela Merkel, Theresa May, Francois Hollands, Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk and Stefan Loefven — of turning a blind eye to the persecution of Turkish journalists and media, especially since last July’s aborted coup attempt. In that time the government of President Erdogan has made unbridled use of sweeping state of emergency powers to summarily close 149 media outlets and 29 publishing houses and intimidate of jail those in the media and society who voice any form of dissent. Turkey’s media landscape has been left cowed or forced into supine support for the government. You may see and share RSF’s campaign link here: https://rsf.org/en/campaigns/rsf-urges-eu-leaders-defend-media-freedom-turkey
Can Dundar, the former editor of the independent Cumhurriyet newspaper, warned during a visit to London this week that the rule of law now no longer exists in Turkey. If a referendum is allowed to be held in April, as proposed, under current conditions, he said press freedom and all opposition voices would be stifled. In a BBC radio interview he said in that case the referendum vote would be a choice between ‘democracy and dictatorship’. Hear the interview with Can Dundar here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08cbp9p .
In 2015 Can Dundar was threatened with a double life sentence and jailed on charges of disclosing state secrets, after his newspaper reported evidence of what was alleged to be an illegal delivery of weapons to Syrian rebel groups by the Turkish intelligence service. He survived an assassination attempt at the time of one court hearing, and after 92 days in prison he and a colleague, Erdem Gul, were freed in February 2016 by order of Turkey’s constitutional court, which found their detention to be unconstitutional . Dundar’s wife has suffered the confiscation of her passport and is unable to leave Turkey to be with her husband. One of the judges who ordered Dundar’s release and the lawyers who defended him are now themselves behind bars.
Scores of serious violations of press freedom and journalists’ basic rights are the subject of verified alerts on the Council of Europe’s online Platform for the safety of journalists www.coe.int/fom . The AEJ is one of 8 organisations, including RSF and the IFJ/EFJ, which are partners of the Council of Europe to operate the Platform as an ‘early warning and rapid response’ mechanism. The AEJ calls on European leaders as well as the Turkish authorities to live up to their public pledges to protect free speech and human rights by practical actions and reforms. If they fail to act now, recent events show there is a grave danger that it will soon be too late.