Turkey: Dündar and Gül muzzled for investigative journalism

Philipp Filipovski

The editor in chief Can Dündar and his bureau chief  Erdem Gül from the oppositional and secular newspaper Cumhurriyet were sentenced to jail by a court in Istanbul for spying and "divulging state secrets".

Can Dündar Can Dündar
Erdem Gül Erdem Gül

In January 2014, the newspaper reported about a convoy of trucks close to the Syrian border. The risky truckload: Weapons and ammunition for the rebels fighting against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. It linked the seized trucks to the Turkish Security Service (MIT).


After publishing the delicate issues in May, Recep Tayyip Erdogan had publicly sworn that Dündar will pay a "heavy price".

Turkey denies aiding Islamist rebels in Syria, e.g. the Islamic State group, although it wants to see Assad toppled. The Kurdish minority in Syria, which fought against ISIS, displeases Ankara because it strenghtens the autonomy movement among Kurdish people in Turkey.

Currently, Turkey ranks 149 from 180 countries according to the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders (RSF), as this was not the only attack on press freedom in Turkey during the last years.


"If these two journalists are imprisoned, it will be additional evidence that the Turkish authorities are ready to use methods worthy of a bygone age in order to suppress independent journalism in Turkey," said RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire in a statement.


Custody as "medal of honour"


Dündar sent a message to German Chancellor Angela Merkel from custody on the occasion of the EU  summit with Turkey  about the refugee crisis. Cumhurriyet published an open letter from Dündar where he expresses his believes that Angela Merkel will continue to defend Western values like freedom of speech throughout all negotiations with Turkey. However, he also criticised the EU talks. The Turkish government also hopes that the EU accession process will accelerate with the help of the negotiations in connection with the refugee crisis.


Dündar told reporters and civil society representatives that the custody is a "medal of honour" for him and his colleague. The Cumhuriyet daily was awarded with the media watchdog’s 2015 Press Freedom Prize. Dündar travelled to Strasbourg last week to receive the award.


Dündar frequently published provoking articles. On the 24th April, the coverpage of Cumhurriyet was headlined in Armenian language "Never again". It was the 100th anniversary of the genocide against the Armenian minority in Turkey. This is still an outrageous, as especially Turkish president Erdogan denies the genocide.


The ECPMF sees the ongoing arrest of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül as a threat against free journalism. The charges against both of them are politically motivated and violate the European Charter on Freedom of the Press.

Phillipp Filipovski, Researcher at ECPMF, carries out fact-checking, picture research and other editorial duties as well as translations from Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian.