The European Union on Friday reacted to the detention of Oğuz Güven, the Internet editor of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, calling on Turkey to respect the highest democratic standards and practices.
“The EU recalls that any alleged wrongdoing or crime should always be subject to due process, and the right of every individual to the presumption of innocence and to defend themselves in a fair trial needs to be respected in any circumstance,” Maja Kocijancic, EU spokesperson, said in response to a question about the detention of Güven.
Stating that the EU has been following the developments in Turkey very closely, Kocijancic said: “As also stated in the European Commission’s most recent Turkey report, we witnessed serious backsliding with regard to fundamental values, such as freedom of expression, independence of the judiciary and freedom of assembly over the past year, including in the context of measures taken following the coup attempt of July 15.”
“The EU has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as a candidate country as well as a member of the Council of Europe, needs to respect the highest democratic standards and practices,” Kocijancic added.
Güven was detained early Friday due to a report that appeared on the website of the daily about the recent traffic death of a public prosecutor in the western province of Denizli.
“I am being taken into custody,” Güven tweeted on Friday without elaborating on the charges directed against him.
It later emerged that Güven’s detention was related to a report about the death of Denizli Chief Public Prosecutor Mustafa Alper in a traffic accident on Wednesday. Güven is accused of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization.
According to Turkish media reports, detention warrants were also issued for 32 readers who left comments under the relevant story.
Cumhuriyet’s Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu was in early November arrested along with eight other Cumhuriyet columnists and executives for allegedly committing crimes on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15.
Meanwhile, former Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar earlier moved to Germany after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally targeted him for a sensational report in Cumhuriyet about alleged illegal arms deliveries by Turkey to opposition groups in Syria.
Rights organizations estimate the number of jailed journalists in Turkey as between 160 and 235.
Amnesty International on Tuesday night projected the names of imprisoned Turkish journalists onto the facade of the Turkish Embassy in The Hague.
AI also launched a campaign on Twitter late in March to support jailed journalists in Turkey, calling for their release, with the hashtag #FreeTurkeyMedia.
Turkey is ranked 155th among 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 26.
If Turkey falls four more ranks, it will make it to the list of the countries on the blacklist, which has the poorest records in press freedom.
The US-based Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, has named Turkey as among the countries that have a “not free” press, in a report released on April 28.
According to Freedom of the Press 2017, the Turkish government, using enhanced powers under a state of emergency, carried out a massive purge of media outlets accused of links to an attempted military coup in July.