close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
AFP
July 25, 2017

Turkey tries anti-Erdogan journalists

World

AFP
July 25, 2017

ISTANBUL: Staff from one of Turkey´s most respected opposition newspapers on Monday rejected as absurd “terror” charges against them on the first day of a trial which has intensified alarm over press freedom under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The 17 defendants from the Cumhuriyet daily were detained from October last year and a dozen of them have now spent more than eight months in jail without being convicted of any crime.

They have been held under a state of emergency imposed after the July 2016 failed coup aimed at ousting Erdogan that the authorities blame on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen. The staff -- including writers, cartoonists and executives -- were applauded by supporters crammed into the Istanbul courtroom as the trial opened, an AFP journalist said.

Supporters released dozens of multicoloured balloons outside the courthouse, chanting: “Don´t be silenced! A free media is a right!” If convicted, the defendants face varying terms of up to 43 years in jail. In an extraordinary coincidence, the trial opened on Turkey´s annual national day of the press which marks the end of official censorship in the Ottoman Empire in 1908 under Sultan Abdulhamid II.

Those appearing in court included some of the best known names in Turkish journalism including the columnist Kadri Gursel, the paper´s editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, cartoonist Musa Kart as well as its chairman Akin Atalay.

They are charged with supporting in the newspaper´s writings three groups considered by Turkey as terror outfits -- the Kurdistan Workers´ Party (PKK), the ultra-left Revolutionary People´s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) and Gulen´s movement, which Ankara calls the Fethullah Terror Organisation (Feto).

The indictment accuses Cumhuriyet of beginning a “perception operation” with the aim of starting an “asymmetric war” against Erdogan. But supporters insist the paper has always been bitterly critical of the three groups, including Gulen´s organisation. Gulen denies any link to the failed coup.

“To say I was in contact with Feto members is illogical and against good sense,” Gursel told the court. “There is nothing to justify my jailing -- nothing apart from slander,” he added.

Atalay said it was the authorities who were scared. “But Cumhuriyet will not give in... independence and liberty are written into the DNA of the paper.” Cumhuriyet (Republic), which was set up in 1924 and is Turkey´s oldest mainstream national title, has been a thorn in the side of Erdogan in recent years.

It is one of the few genuine opposition voices in the press, which is dominated by strongly pro-government media and bigger mainstream dailies that are increasingly wary of challenging the authorities.

Also being tried in the case is the investigative journalist Ahmet Sik who in 2011 wrote an explosive book “The Imam´s Army” exposing the grip Gulen´s movement had on the Turkish state.