Opposition parties have condemned the detention of the editor-in-chief and more than a dozen journalists of daily Cumhuriyet early on Monday, saying the move passes another threshold in pressure on dissidents by the Turkish government.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu visited Cumhuriyet’s Ankara Bureau and met with bureau chief Erdem Gül and reporters to express his support and solidarity with the newspaper, which is targeted over alleged “links with terror organizations.”
“We will altogether struggle against this” Kılıçdaroğlu told Gül during the visit. In a statement issued after his visit to Cumhuriyet, the CHP head slammed the government for “turning the July 15 coup attempt into an opportunity to crack down on intellectuals, writers and journalists.”
“They are trying to change the constitutional order through state of emergency decree laws. A big responsibility is on the shoulders of the Constitutional Court. If it had accepted our appeal [for the annulment of decree laws breaching the constitution], none of this would have happened” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
Describing Cumhuriyet as one of Turkey’s most important newspapers, he called on all intellectuals, journalists, writers to defend the newspapers against oppressors. “Don’t forget that if you keep silent now, you will be next,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
No fair trial: HDP
Selahattin Demirtaş, co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), criticized the detention of the Cumhuriyet journalists, saying the move was part of ongoing pressure against all dissidents in Turkey, following the arrest of the HDP co-mayors Gultan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı in Diyarbakır and former MP Ayla Akat Ata.
“There is no fair trial. If there was, we would think our friends would be acquitted. But this is a political operation. The operation against Cumhuriyet newspaper is part of this pressure” Demirtaş said.
“I agree [with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] that the ‘world is bigger than five.’ But Turkey is also bigger than Erdoğan and the [ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP. He should not forget this” he said, referring to the president’s condemnation of the five-member U.N. Security Council.
ÇGD criticizes detentions
Crowds gathered outside the Cumhuriyet office in Istanbul’s Şişli district to protest the operation against the newspaper, while leading press organizations also slammed the raids.
“The Republic of Turkey has been going through an historical turning point since July 15, 2016. This is about … abolishing all universal values including the right to live and social rights. The most explicit indications of it are the growing pressure against the Turkish press and the policies to destroy it,” the Contemporary Journalists Association (ÇGD) said in a written statement on Oct. 31.
“This is the process of the destruction of free thought,” it added, recalling that a number of media organizations had been shut down through state of emergency decree laws over the weekend.
Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief and 11 more detained
Turkish police have detained the editor-in-chief of the daily Cumhuriyet on Monday and at least 11 other journalists and board members, the newspaper reported on its website.
Cumhuriyet Editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu and columnists Aydın Engin, Güray Öz, Hikmet Çetinkaya, Hakan Kara, Turhan Günay, caricaturist Musa Kart and Cumhuriyet Foundation Board members Bülent Utku, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Önder Çelik, Bülent Yener and Eser Sevinç have all been detained in raids, Cumhuriyet said, adding that the journalists have been banned from meeting with lawyers for five days.
Columnist Kadri Gürsel and accountant Günseli Özaltay were still being sought for detention, while journalist Nebil Özgentürk and Cumhuriyet foundation executive board chair Akın Atalay, also sought for detention, were reported to be overseas. The house of another writer, Orhan Erinç, was searched but he was not detained due to his age.