Turkey Jails Two Journalists Over Video

Turkey Jails Two Journalists Over VideoTurkey Jails Two Journalists Over Video

Turkish authorities have arrested two prominent reporters on charges of assisting terrorism. They had published video footage online that allegedly tied the country’s state intelligence agency to extremists in Syria.

A court in Istanbul accused Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, two journalists with the opposition daily “Cumhuriyet”, of “divulging state secrets” and “spying in aid of terrorist organizations”, Deutsche Welle reported.

In May 2015, the two journalists had published a video on the newspaper’s website dating back to January 2014 that allegedly showed Turkish police open Syria-bound crates of weapons and ammunition on trucks belonging to Turkey’s intelligence agency, MIT.

Dundar, 54, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief and a well-known veteran journalist in Turkey, and Gul, the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, have both been taken into custody, as social media users across Turkey voiced their criticism at the recently-elected government’s tough stance on journalists.

Dundar, meanwhile, only tweeted the word “arrested”. He had previously said in anticipation of the Justice and Development Party’s election win on November 1 that Turks had to brace themselves “for a period of heightened repression”.

  Press Freedom in Turkey

The arrests have brought the issue of press freedom in Turkey to the fore once again. The country continues to rank as one of the worst places for practicing freedom of speech, according to global press freedom indexes.

In August, Turkey had detained three journalists reporting for Vice News in the predominantly Kurdish southeast region, one of whom remains in custody. Later in the summer, the office of the Turkish daily “Hurriyet” was raided and vandalized after criticizing the president’s increasingly authoritarian leadership style.

Other attacks on press freedom have since ensued, including arrests at the popular current affairs magazine “Nokta.”

  An Angry President

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose AKP has governed Turkey since 2002, gave a television interview with state broadcaster TRT, where he said that he would “not let this go”.

“The individual who has reported this as an exclusive story will pay a high price for this,” the Turkish president said, adding that he had personally filed the criminal complaint against Dundar, demanding that he serve multiple life sentences.

“These allegations against the national intelligence agency and this illegal operation are some kind of espionage activity,” Erdogan added. “This paper is now involved in this espionage.”

Erdogan has previously attacked news publications, including titles published abroad, saying that the UK-based Guardian should “know its limits”.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, meanwhile, made comments defending the truck shipment, saying that they were carrying aid for Turkmen fighters without further specifying their content.

“It is nobody’s business what was inside the trucks. Yes, there were serious clashes in Syria and we helped the Turkmens,” Davutoglu said in a television interview with the Turkish news channel Haberturk.

   Further Reactions

An online survey conducted by Turkiye Anket soon after the indictments said that less than 20% out of 83 participants thought the journalists had committed treason, while 76% said the news report about the alleged arms deliveries to Syria was an outstanding achievement for journalism.

European responses toward the issue of press freedom in Turkey have become more subdued, as Turkey has become a key ally in coping with the refugee influx across the continent as well as in the fight against the self-styled IS.

Turkey, a NATO member and EU membership candidate, is expecting to finalize a major deal on the refugee crisis in coming days, shortly after securing $3.2 billion to help Turkey host more Syrian refugees.