Celebrate Dündar and Gül’s release, but recognize broader attack on press freedoms


Can Dündar, the Cumhuriyet daily’s editor-in-chief hugs his wife Dilek, after being freed from Silivri prison in Istanbul. Photograph: Vedat Arik/AFP/Getty Images

With a ruling by Turkey’s Constitutional Court, journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül have been released from pre-trial detention in a case that potentially could have resulted in terms of life in prison.

As reported in the Guardian:

The constitutional court, which convened to discuss the journalists’ individual petitions, ruled that their “rights to personal liberty and security had been violated”, the court said in a statement on its website.

“Their freedom of expression and freedom of press” was also violated, it added, ruling to send the dossier to the lower court for “the removal of violation”.

The decision was overwhelmingly approved with 12 votes for and three against, Turkish media reports said.

Their case had been highlighted in Amnesty’s 2015 report:

In November, the [Cumhuriyet’s] editor-in-chief Can Dündar and its Ankara representative, Erdem Gül, were charged with espionage, revealing state secrets and assisting a terrorist organization after a story in the newspaper alleged that the intelligence services had transferred weapons to an armed group in Syria in 2014. The then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had previously claimed that the trucks were delivering humanitarian aid. The two men were remanded in pre-trial detention and remained there at the end of the year. They faced up to life imprisonment if convicted.

Their release today is welcome news at a time when there is little to celebrate in Turkey’s record on human rights.  Nonetheless, it should not camouflage  the larger reality.  The government continues to exert “immense pressure on the media.” Journalist who are critical of the government are routinely subjected to harassment, and sometimes, “attacks by unknown assailants.”  According to Amnesty International, “news websites, including  including large swathes of the Kurdish press, were blocked on unclear grounds by administrative orders aided by a compliant judiciary.”    Journalists covering stories in south eastern Turkey “were harassed and assaulted by police.”

Indeed, even as I write this blog, I see news (which I have not yet confirmed) that another opposition news channel has been taken off the air.

The release of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül should be celebrated.  But we mustn’t lose sight of the larger reality.  Attacks on the press freedom continue apace in Turkey.


Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University


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