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Cumhuriyet journalists face trial in Turkey

21 July 2017

The trial involves 17 journalists and executives from the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, and starts on Monday 24 July in Istanbul.

The International and European Federation of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ) join their Turkish trade union affiliates the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), and the Progressive Journalists Union of Turkey (DISK Basin-Is) in condemning the trial which is based on unfounded accusations that the paper is secretly supporting the PKK - a militant Kurdish organisation and the ETO - the group allegedly responsible for last year’s failed coup.

EFJ president Mogens Blicher Bjerregård will be present at the trial to monitor the proceedings and express solidarity with the accused.

The Cumhuriyet employees on trial are charged with "helping an armed terrorist organisation while not being a member" and "employment-related abuse of trust". 

The Turkish government maintains that since 2013, the newspaper has acted as "defender and protector" of FETO and the PKK. This is despite Cumhuriyet’s long history of criticism towards these groups.

The charges carry up to 43 year sentences.

Ozge Yurttas, general secretary of DISK Basin-Is, said:

"Today freedom of the press is under grave threat. Journalism itself has been put on trial in the Cumhuriyet case.

"We demand freedom for all journalists. Freedom of expression and the press are core principles of democracy. We can no longer claim to be living in a democratic country unless these innocent journalists are set free."

The 17 employees have also effectively been punished without conviction, having already spent months in pre-trial detention.

The charges are based on journalists’ tweets and news reports, rather than concrete evidence. Many regard the prosecution as politically motivated.

Gökhan Durmuş, chair of the TGS, said:

"It is unacceptable for us that our colleagues, who have no jobs other than journalistic activities, have been detained for months.

"On July 24, we expect the judges to release our colleagues and realise that journalistic activities are not a crime."

Turkey is now the world’s leading jailor of journalists, 165 journalists are in jail.

Philippe Leruth, IFJ president, said:

"The EFJ and IFJ see these charges for what they are, blatant persecution of an independent and critical newspaper and its employees.

"Cumhuriyet is one of the largest and oldest newspapers in Turkey with a long and distinguished history of editorial independence and advocacy for free expression. It is evident to us and the international community that the Turkish government is once again criminalizing journalistic work and attempting to silence one of the only remaining major opposition voices in the country. We demand the immediate release of the Cumhuriyet employees, as well as all other journalists jailed for exercising their right to free expression."

Tags: , cumhuriyet, turkey, ifj, journalists arrested, journalists detained, journalists prosecuted, journalists union of turkey, progressive journalists union of turkey, terrorism, press freedom, solidarity