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SoE: Press freedom is on trial in Turkey

26 July 2017


The current trial of 17 newspaper employees in Turkey is a direct attack on press freedom, the Society of Editors has warned.

The trial, which started on Monday, has seen 17 journalists, lawyers and executives from Cumhuriyet newspaper facing charges of aiding and abetting terrorist organisations. All were arrested in the wake of an attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016 and face lengthy prison sentences of up to 43 years if convicted. 

Hundreds of protestors gathered outside the Çaglayan justice palace near Istanbul this week to protest against the trial, which is taking place nine months after most of the journalists were incarcerated.  

The Society of Editors, which campaigns for the universal right to freedom of expression, has condemned what it describes as a ‘politically-motivated’ case and an attempt by the ruling party to crack down on opposition and dissent. 

The Society said: “The charges against the employees of Cumhuriyet are widely recognised by human rights groups as unfounded and politically-motivated and are indicative of a systematic government crackdown on the press and the public’s right to know in the wake of the attempted coup in July 2016. Since then, more than 150 journalists have been arrested and jailed and there has been a massive purge of media outlets with 180 news organisations shut down under laws passed by presidential decree. The deterioration of media freedom and the use of emergency powers to jail journalists and stamp out dissent and opposition is an appalling misuse of government powers that has won the country the accolade of the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. 

“The Cumhuriyet trial is a direct attack on press freedom and an attempt by President Erdogan and the ruling party to muzzle freedom of expression in a country that, quite frankly, requires a free press now more than ever before. The Society calls on the Turkish authorities to not only ensure that those on trial face a fair one but that steps are immediately taken to ensure the release of all those currently held for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

The initial phase of the trial is expected to last until Friday with defence statements from the journalists before the judge is expected to rule on whether to release them on bail while the trial continues. 

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