The arrest of two journalists on 26th November on charges of collecting and revealing secret documents for espionage and supporting an armed terrorist organisation, has raised concerns with the US State Department.
A statement by the department the day after the arrests read: “We are troubled by the pre-trial arrest yesterday of senior editors of the respected Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet.
The investigation, criminal charges, and arrest raise serious concerns about the Turkish government’s commitment to the fundamental principle of media freedom,” it said.
Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dündar (pictured on right) and the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gül (on left) denied the charges or any links to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ), a term used by prosecutors to define the followers of Fethullah Gülen, a US-based Islamic scholar, who, according to the Turkish government, have created a parallel structure within the state. The arrests followed reports published in ‘Cumhuriyet’ about trucks bound for Syria sent by Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MIT).
“These events are only the latest in a series of judicial and law enforcement actions taken under questionable circumstances against Turkish media outlets critical of the government,” the US State Department statement read.
“We call on Turkish authorities to ensure that all individuals and organisations – including but not limited to the media – are free to voice a full range of opinions and criticism, in accordance with Turkey’s constitutional guarantees of media freedom and freedom of expression. This will ultimately strengthen Turkey’s democracy,” the statement concluded.
In June this year President Erdogan called for a life sentence to be passed on Dundar. Erdogan has insisted that the Turkish National Intelligence agency (MIT) were carrying aid to Turkmens in Syria.