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04.03.2016

Turkey: independent TV shut down as Cumhuriyet editors released

Turkish journalists Erdem Gül and Can Dündar have been released from jail. The editors from the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet had been arrested 3 months earlier accused of spying and intentionally revealing state secrets after they alleged that the Erdogan-government tried to ship arms to Syria to support of Islamist fighters.

On the day of Gül’s and Dündar’s release, independent Turkish broadcaster IMC was stopped from broadcasting for a day. The TV channel was accused of spreading “terrorist propaganda” and shut down by the government to investigate the allegations. The break in transmission came while IMC was airing a live interview with the two Cumhüriyet journalists about their release from jail. Officially no connection has been made between the two cases. However, Turkish media freedom activists and IMC’s co-ordinator Eyup Burc see the timing of the shut down as clear sign: “This was done deliberately, to send a message to the media: that Can Dündar and Erdem Gül may have been released due to the public outcry, but that doesn't mean the government is retreating from its course”, Burc told the newsagency Reuters.

For 92 days, the editor-in-chief Can Dündar and the head of the Ankara office, Gül, were imprisoned, not serving a court sentence, but waiting for their trial tostart on 25 March 2016. Now, Turkey’s constitutional court has ruled that their rights to personal liberty had been violated, leading to the immediate release of the journalists.

However, this does not mean that the charges against them were dropped. Dündar and Gül will still have to go on trial. In the worst case, they might face life sentences. The case aroused attention as President Erdogan himself announced that Dündar would have to “pay the price” for releasing the story in question. The charges against the journalists and their imprisonment caused a new discussion about the state of press freedom in Turkey under the rule of President Erdogan.

For example, Reporters Without Borders has campaigned for the release of the Cumhüriyet editors and started a petition to get the charges dropped http://bit.ly/1NgmFl2.

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Turkey is a candidate for EU membership and currently ranks 149 out of 180 according to Reporters without Borders’ latest Press Freedom Index.



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