Thousands protest in Turkey over arrests of two senior journalists
ISTANBUL: Several thousand people protested yesterday at the arrest of two prominent journalists on charges of espionage and terrorist propaganda, a case that has revived long-standing criticism of Turkey’s record on press freedom under President Tayyip Erdogan.
On Thursday a court ordered the arrest of Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, and senior editor Erdem Gul over the publication of footage purporting to show the state intelligence agency helping send weapons to Syria.
The United States said it was “very concerned,” and opposition politicians fiercely criticised the move.
“Journalism is being put on trial with these arrests and the Turkish press is being intimidated,” Utku Cakirozer, an MP from the main opposition People’s Republican Party and Cumhuriyet’s former top editor.
Some 2 000 people gathered in Istanbul and another 1 000 in Ankara, with some accusing Erdogan of of collaborating with Islamic State.
Cumhuriyet is a secular, left-wing newspaper.
The video footage, released in May, purported to show Turkish police opening crates of weapons and ammunition bound for Syria on the back of trucks said to belong to the MIT National Intelligence Organisation.
Publication of the story at the time prompted Erdogan to vow revenge, saying those behind it endangered security and would “pay a heavy price”.
He subsequently filed a criminal complaint against Dundar and Gul.
Dundar rejected the charges in his defence on Thursday.
European diplomats are measured in their criticism of media freedom in Turkey and Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule, recognising the West needs Ankara’s help on the migrant crisis and as an ally in the USled coalition against Islamic State.
Europe hopes to finalise a deal with Ankara on the refugee crisis at a summit this weekend. – Reuters