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Int’l coalition condemns Cumhuriyet arrests, Kurdish media closures in letter to Erdoğan

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A coalition of 14 leading international press freedom and freedom of expression organizations, in a letter sent today to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and high-ranking Turkish officials, condemned the jailing of top journalists with Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper and the closure of 15 pro-Kurdish media outlets, calling the acts an “extraordinary attack on press freedom.”

Turkish police on Monday launched a massive operation against the Cumhuriyet newspaper, detaining Editor-in-Chief and International Press Institute (IPI) member Murat Sabuncu and a dozen other managers and journalists, including virtually all members of the newspaper’s executive board.

Officials later announced an arrest warrant had been issued for IPI executive board member and IPI Turkey National Committee Chair Kadri Gürsel, a columnist and editorial adviser at Cumhuriyet. He was subsequently taken into custody on Monday.

The coalition said it was “deeply disturbed” by the attack both against “a highly respected newspaper that remains one of Turkey’s last sources of critical news and information and a representative of a major international human rights organization.” It added that they were “extremely concerned that those detained are being held without access to legal counsel and without a clear indictment against them.”

The move against Cumhuriyet came two days after 15 Kurdish media outlets were closed down by government decree on Saturday, which the coalition described as a “further attempt by the Turkish government to control all media coverage of the ongoing operations [in the country’s South East] and prevent independent media from investigating grave human rights abuses there.”

Coalition members called on Turkey to immediately release the Cumhuriyet staff as well as the more than 130 other journalists currently behind bars “for exercising their right to freedom of expression” in the country.

“We condemn these arrests and closures as an extraordinary attack on press freedom, freedom of expression and the journalistic profession – unfortunately merely the latest example of such in Turkey. Our organisations stand in solidarity with Mr. Sabuncu, Mr. Gürsel and their colleagues, as do journalists around the world,” said the letter to Turkish officials.

In addition to stating that they would welcome the opportunity to discuss the situation directly with Erdoğan and calling for the release of Sabuncu, Gürsel and other Cumhuriyet staff as well as all other journalists for exercising their right to freedom of expression, the coalition said: “We also call on lawmakers in Turkey to end the abuse of emergency powers that are being used to suppress legitimate dissent, further crackdown on independent media and undermine what is left of the rule of law.”

The letter was undersigned by:

–The International Press Institute (IPI)
–The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
–Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
–The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
-The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
–Index on Censorship
–The Ethical Journalism Network (EJN)
–PEN International
–The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)
–The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
–Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
–European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

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