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“We are not traitors, spies, or heroes; we are journalists. What we have done here was a journalistic activity”

Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar

Can Dündar, Editor-in-Chief at Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, and the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, were arrested on November 26, 2015 on charges of espionage, aiding a terrorist organisation, and revealing state secrets. The charges stem from a report published in Cumhuriyet that purportedly revealed evidence that Turkey’s intelligence agency, MIT, was secretly sending weapons to Islamist rebel groups in Syria. Dündar and Gül have been in pre-trial detention since their arrest.
The report was published by Cumhuriyet on May 29, 2015 and included a video allegedly showing Turkish security forces searching MIT trucks en route to Syria, containing crates of ammunition and weapons. The following month in a television interview, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that the individual who wrote the piece would “pay a high price,” vowing that he would “not let this go.”
On June 2, Erdoğan filed an individual criminal complaint under Turkey’s broad anti-terror laws against Dündar and the newspaper, claiming that the evidence was “fabricated” in order to “create a perception in the scope of a planned setup as if the Republic of Turkey has been helping terrorist organisations”.
Lawyers representing Dündar and Gül appealed the decision to arrest the journalists and attempted to have them released on December 1, 2015, but the motion was rejected the same day by the Istanbul 7th Criminal Court of Peace. The second request to the Istanbul 6th Criminal Court of Peace was rejected on December 11, 2015, on the grounds that no new evidence was provided to justify the release of the journalists.
The case against Dündar and Gül has generated a significant outcry from the international community, NGOs and media professionals around the world.
“The arrest and imprisonment of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül for publishing information on a matter of urgent and undeniable public interest make it clear: press freedom in Turkey is no longer simply under threat; it is in danger of being completely extinguished,” IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi stated.

We are accused of ‘spying’. The president said [our action is] ‘treason’. We are not traitors, spies, or heroes; we are journalists. What we have done here was a journalistic activity. We came here to defend journalism. We came here to defend the right of the public to obtain the news and their right to know if their government is feeding them lies. We came here to show and to prove that governments cannot engage in illegal activity and defend this.

Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief, Can Dündar.

They have been put in jail simply for their factual reporting on the secret arms transfer to Syria, which undoubtedly constitutes a liability for the [ruling] AKP government. Their arrest constitutes an unprecedented degradation in the agonising state of press freedom in Turkey and a new extreme in the criminalisation of journalism in the country.

IPI Turkish National Committee Chair Kadri Gürsel

You and all journalists who seek to report truth in Turkey face tremendous difficulties, but we know that ‘no one can silence reality’. We pledge to keep fighting for the rights of journalists to do their job and uphold the public’s right to share and receive information.

IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi

“The arrest and imprisonment of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül for publishing information on a matter of urgent and undeniable public interest make it clear: press freedom in Turkey is no longer simply under threat; it is in danger of being completely extinguished”

IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi


First as prime minister and now as president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been waging a methodical crackdown on the media in Turkey for years. Erdogan is persecuting journalists of all colours in an increasingly ferocious manner in the name of combating terrorism and defending state security. The Erdogan regime’s arrests, threats and intimidation are unworthy of a democracy.

Can Dündar, the editor­in­chief of the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, and his Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, have been held since the evening of 26 November. They are charged with spying and terrorism because last May they published evidence of arms deliveries by the Turkish intelligence services to Islamist groups in Syria. Both are exemplars of journalism, the search for truth and the defence of freedoms. President Erdogan publicly said that Dündar “will pay for this.” But Cumhuriyet’s journalists just did their job, publishing information that was in the public interest.

At a time when international terrorism is at the centre of everyone’s concerns, it is unacceptable that political prosecutions are used to suppress investigative reporting and exposés. The arrest of these two journalists is the latest extreme to which political use of the Turkish judicial system has been taken. Many journalists have been detained on spurious charges of terrorist propaganda and insulting President Erdogan. The regime has also been using economic levers to put growing pressure on the media, while draconian laws have been passed.

We, public figures, media freedom NGOs and unions, reject the blatant erosion of media freedom in Turkey. The country is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

We appeal to the Turkish authorities to free Can Dündar and Erdem Gül without delay, to drop all charges against them, and to free all other journalists who are currently detained in connection with their journalism or the opinions they have expressed.

We also urge the institutions and governments of democratic countries to face up to their responsibilities to respond to President Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian excesses.



Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ)
International Press Institute (IPI)
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN­IFRA)
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Ethical Journalism Network (EJN)
Turkish Association of Journalists (TGC)
Turkish Union of Journalists (TGS)

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