Thirteen reporters, editors and executives from opposition Cumhuriyet daily face jail but vow to continue ‘to tell the truth’
A Turkish court has convicted journalists from the opposition Cumhuriyet daily for helping outlawed “terrorist” organisations – but editors vowed their “honourable” journalism would not stop.
The court in Silivri, outside Istanbul, handed out multiple sentences to 13 journalists and executives for “aiding and abetting terror organisations without being a member” but they remain free pending appeal.
“No penalty can stop us from doing journalism. If needed, we will go to prison again but we will continue to do honest and honourable journalism,” editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu said after being sentenced to seven years and six months.
Sabuncu said the punishment was not only given to him “but to Turkey and to press freedom in Turkey” as authorities sought to deter others from real journalism.
However, he added: “It is the sword of Damocles. Do not be scared. Keep on doing journalism. Let’s keep on doing journalism together.”
The journalists were all charged with supporting, through their coverage, three organisations that Turkey views as terror groups – the Kurdistan Workers’ party, the ultra-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, and the Gulen movement blamed for the 2016 failed coup.
Among others convicted were some of the biggest names in Turkish journalism, including investigative reporter Ahmet Sik who is seen as one of Turkey’s most incisive critics of the Gulen movement.
He was given a seven-and-a-half year sentence while veteran journalist Kadri Gursel was sentenced to two years and six months. The court handed cartoonist Musa Kart a sentence of three years and nine months.
The judge ordered the release of Cumhuriyet chairman Akin Atalay who had been in jail for over 500 days despite his conviction.
Greeted by his wife Adalet and a crowd of supporters shortly after he walked free from prison, Atalay said Cumhuriyet – which means “republic” – would not succumb to pressure or threats.
“As we always say they cannot intimidate Cumhuriyet which will continue to tell the truth to its readers,” he told reporters.
Three defendants, including the paper’s books supplement editor Turhan Gunay, were acquitted.
Supporters of the accused repeatedly said the charges against the journalists were absurd and that the trial was political.
Cumhuriyet headlined its report on the convictions with a warning to the Turkish authorities: “You will be shamed in front of history.”
Amnesty International’s Turkey campaigner Milena Buyum lambasted the trial during which the prosecution “failed to produce a shred of evidence” of any criminal wrongdoing.
According to the P24 press freedom group, there are over 160 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were arrested under the state of emergency imposed after the coup attempt in July 2016.