The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern regarding the recent deterioration of the media atmosphere in Turkey. The country already faces many issues regarding media freedom and freedom of expression, but has witnessed a significant increase in devaluing of human and journalists’ rights.
On 26 November, two media workers from the daily Cumhuriyet were arrested for reporting on trucks containing weapons that were allegedly being sent to Syrian rebel forces in connection with Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency. Editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara Bureau Chief Erdem Gul now face charges including potential life imprisonment. They were accused of publishing confidential information, political and military espionage, as well as being the propaganda vessel of a terrorist organization.
Following this, another tragic event occurred on 28 November, when Tahir Elci, a Turkish human rights lawyer and defender was assassinated with a single bullet to the head in Diyarbakir, south-eastern Turkey. The horrifying event took place right after a press conference Elci held that day. The circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear.
On 2 December, a Danish journalist claimed in a series of tweets that he was severely assaulted by a group of Turkishsoldiers while crossing the Turkish border into Syria. Nagieb Khaja, a freelance journalist covering conflict in the region, posted a photo of himself with severe facial bruises. Khaja stated that he identified himself as a journalist and showed his press card to authorities at the border, but they beat him regardless.
“We appeal to authorities in Turkey to drop charges against Can Dundar and Erdem Gul from Cumhuriyet, do all they can to find the perpetrators of the gruesome murder of Tahir Elci and to investigate the case of Nagieb Khaja and punish those responsible for his senseless beating”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.
SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.