ECPMF supports Dündar and Gül in Istanbul: “We are not defending ourselves, but journalism”

by Michelle Trimborn
On 24 March, the evening before the trial against Turkish journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, ECPMF joined forces with Turkish and international media organisations to show solidarity and stand up for a free press in Turkey. The journalists thanked for the international support.

PK-Istanbul ECPMF joined forces with Turkish and international media organisations in Turkey (photo ECPMF)

When Can Dündar and Erdem Gül entered the podium at the TGS Journalists’ Union of Turkey, they were applauded by all reporters and representatives present. In Istanbul, eleven media organisations came together to show their support also to Dündar and Gül, but finally to all Turkish journalists who are endangered and keep on working under critical conditions.

“The European Centre for Press- and Mediafreedom is a young organisation. Its founding was a clear sign showing that press freedom in Europe should not and cannot be taken for granted”, said Michelle Trimborn, ECPMF spokesperson at the conference. “The threats against and the imprisonment of individual journalists does not only harm the respective persons, but sends a strong and dangerous message to civil society. People are scared, self-censorship is the consequences – and it is one of the biggest dangers to press freedom.”

This was also stressed by Erdem Gül on the evening before his trial:

The government tells us not to do our jobs, but to be silent and obey – and this is something we have to fight against. The Turkish authorities do not only restrict the freedom of expression and the right to write, but in fact the freedom to think.”

All participants of the conference, among them Turkish journalists’ associations TGC, TGS and CGD and the trade unions DISK-Basin Is and Haber Sen, together with ECPMF, the European/International Federation of Journalists (EFJ/IFJ), PEN International, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters without Borders (RSF), stressed that they are currently not only fighting for two journalists facing judicial charges, but for all media workers, Turkish society and democracy.

Together, the media organisations launched a “Call for Freedom of Information and Freedom for Journalists”, addressing to Turkish authorities that threats against journalists must end, imprisoned journalists must be released and censorship on broadcasting companies and websites must be stopped. They also called for an equal treatment of all journalists: Media workers with membership in trade unions or employed at government-critical media are often denied information and access to press conferences.

Can Dündar remembered of the dimension if this court case:

Tomorrow, we will not be defending ourselves. We will defend our profession – we will defend journalism!”

The trial and its ruling will not only matter for him and his colleague, but for the whole media landscape and civil society in Turkey. “The government does not work against journalists, but all people and their right to information. They want to make the people blind by not giving them an access to it. What they do is to create an empire based on fear.”

On 25 March 2016, the Cumhuriyet journalists Erdem Gül and Can Dündar are both facing life prison sentences for the publication of an article on arms trade to Syria. They are accused of terrorism and espionage and already served 92 days in detention pre-trial.