International press freedom groups condemn isolation of arrested Turkish journalists

International press freedom groups condemn isolation of arrested Turkish journalists

ISTANBUL – Doğan News Agency
International press freedom groups condemn isolation of arrested Turkish journalists

CİHAN photo

A coalition from the world’s most prestigious press freedom organizations condemned the isolation of arrested Turkish journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül on Jan. 27, holding a vigil in front of Istanbul’s Silivri prison to show their support.

The Turkish Justice Ministry rejected a demand to visit the journalists that was filed by press organizations including the International Press Institute (IPI), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), PEN International, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO). 

Accordingly, the coalition condemned the ministry’s refusal in a press statement made by IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven Ellis in front of Silivri prison.

“In recent years, when nearly 100 journalists were held in Turkish prisons, journalists in Turkey were often allowed to visit their imprisoned colleagues. However, in recent months, Turkey’s Justice Ministry has effectively barred most visits for both Dündar and Gül; the only visitors allowed to see them are close family members, lawyers or members of Turkey’s Parliament,” Ellis said.

Following the ministry’s recent refusals to respond to visitation requests put forward by journalists’ groups in Turkey and others, a coalition of 11 international free expression and press freedom defenders submitted a joint request on Jan. 8, seeking permission to visit Dündar and Gül on Jan. 27.

On Jan. 22, however, Turkey’s Justice Ministry denied the request. In a response, the ministry cited articles of statutes and regulations requiring the ministry’s permission for such a visit and indicated that the request was denied because permission to visit was not given.

The coalition condemned Turkey’s refusal to allow supporters to visit Dündar and Gül, who were held in solitary confinement for 40 days before finally being allowed to share a cell together early this month, as well as the charges against them, Ellis said, adding that the situation represented a “violation of rights” and “a gross abuse of authority.”

The coalition also reiterated its call on Turkish authorities for the immediate release of Dündar and Gül along with other journalists who were detained for doing journalism and expressing their opinions.

Meanwhile, an indictment against Dündar and Gül for highlighting weapons transfers by the country’s intelligence agency has been completed by the case’s prosecutor, with the pair facing life in prison, penal servitude for life and 30 years in prison.

Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Dündar and Ankara Bureau chief Gül were arrested on terrorism charges on Nov. 26, 2015, over a story on trucks owned by the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), Turkey’s state intelligence agency, which were stopped and searched in southern Turkey in early 2014 while allegedly carrying weapons to opposition forces fighting against the Syrian government.