Main opposition CHP leader says ‘no press freedom in Turkey’

Main opposition CHP leader says ‘no press freedom in Turkey’

Main opposition CHP leader says ‘no press freedom in Turkey’ Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said there is no press freedom in Turkey, referring to the ongoing cases against 17 journalists and executives of the daily Cumhuriyet. 

“A national day was announced 109 years ago because censorship over the media was lifted. [Cumhuriyet] journalists, however, could not celebrate this day. On the same day there was the first hearing of the case against daily Cumhuriyet, which is as old as the Turkish Republic, there was no celebration. There is no media freedom in Turkey,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in a parliamentary group meeting on July 25, marking the 109th anniversary of national Press Freedom Day. 

Seventeen executives and journalists from the daily, including the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, Ahmet Şık, Kadri Gürsel and cartoonist Musa Kart, appeared in court for the first time on July 24, with accusations they were involved in terror-related activities. 

Eleven of the 17, including Gürsel, Sabuncu, and Kart, have been held in custody, waiting to defend themselves since October 2016 and Şık since December 2016.

The 324-page indictment alleges Cumhuriyet was effectively taken over by the network of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, believed to have been behind the failed July 15, 2016, coup attempt.

“A newspaper which has struggled against criminal organizations like FETÖ for all its life now has its writers imprisoned over accusations that it has relations with FETÖ [Fethullahist Terrorist Organization]. It is illogical,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

 “I hope justice will be served and they will be released,” he said. 

Kılıçdaroğlu also criticized the prosecutor’s indictment against the journalists, saying the initial indictment was prepared by a prosecutor who is now imprisoned for being a member of FETÖ. 

“Think about it, Kadri Gürsel wanted to hug his child during the hearing, they did not let him do so. Ahmet Şık was deprived of doing the same with his daughter, whom he refers to as his ‘treasure.’ Is this the state the media should be in?” he stressed, referring to the first day of the hearing when the journalists appeared before a judge. 

The hearings will continue until the end of this week. 

Prosecutors are seeking sentences for the journalists on terror charges. 

Şık, however, is being sought over “helping and being a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK] and the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front [DHKP-C]” with 7.5 years to 43 years in prison.