Turkey’s case against journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül represents “another deplorable attempt by the authorities to silence dissenting voices in the Turkish press,” Amnesty International said in a public statement today. It called on authorities to release them from pre-trial detention and for the charges against them to be dropped.
The journalists are accused of “procuring and disclosing information for the purposes of espionage” and participation in the “Fetullah Gülen / Parallel State Structure terrorist organisation.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had announced as early as June that the journalists would “pay a high price” for their reporting.
The charges against the journalists relate to articles published by the Cumhuriyet newspaper in May and June about the alleged transfer of weapons by Turkish security forces to armed groups opposed to President Assad in Syria. The journalists reported that trucks belonging to the National Intelligence Organisation (MİT) which had been stopped close to the Turkey-Syria border in January 2014 contained ammunitions. The convoy of trucks was stopped upon instructions from the local prosecutor and inspected by the prosecutor and members of the gendarmerie. Photographs and video footage of the ammunitions found in the trucks were published on the Cumhuriyet website. The Turkish authorities had previously denied any allegations of wrongdoing in relation to the incident, asserting that the trucks were transporting aid to the Turkmen minority in Syria. The information revealed by the two journalists called into question the explanation offered by the authorities.
In a separate ongoing case, the four prosecutors and the commander of the local gendarmerie who stopped and inspected the trucks face criminal charges for their involvement in the incident. They are accused of procuring and disclosing secret information regarding state security and “attempting to overthrow the government of the Turkish republic through use of violence and coercion”.
In the recently published report Taking Stock: The Arming of the Islamic State, Amnesty International calls for an end to all transfers of arms to groups in Syria that are implicated in human rights abuses and calls on Turkey and other neighbouring states to enhance border security to ensure any illicit flows of arms into Syria are obstructed.
“Rather than targeting journalists and state officials investigating the incident, the Turkish authorities should examine the allegations to ensure that no illicit transfers of arms into Syria is taking place at the Turkey-Syria border.”
Amnesty views the prosecution of these journalists as “an attack on the right to freedom of expression and an example of the increasing pressure exerted by the Turkish government on journalists.” The case is one of many in which journalists have been targeted by the government for reporting the news.
Can Dündar and Erdem Gül should be immediately released. The war on journalists must end.
St. Lawrence University