Press organizations condemn Turkish media for ignoring Cumhuriyet trial

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German politicians and Member of the European Parliament, Arne Lietz (C) and Rebecca Harms (R), speak during a demonstration outside Istanbul courthouse on July 24, 2017. Seventeen directors and journalists from one of Turkey's most respected opposition newspapers go on trial on July 24 after spending over eight months behind bars in a case which has raised new alarm over press freedoms under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

Several press organizations including the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC), Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), Turkish Press Council and PEN Writers Association have condemned Turkish media for failing to cover the trial of 17 Cumhuriyet journalists and executives, which began at an İstanbul court on Monday.

The press organizations issued a statement criticizing the Turkish media for their indifference to the trial of the 17 suspects, who were arrested in November 2016, and said: “It is a shame that those trials watched by journalists from other countries are not covered in any of the newspapers except a few in the mainstream media of the country [Turkey]. …The trial of this many and such well-known journalists is newsworthy everywhere in the world.”

Referring to the French Liberation daily, which allocated six pages to the trial, the statement said: “We condemn all media organizations that did not see this as news, did not defend their jobs and colleagues and engaged in self-censorship.”

An indictment drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in April 2017 originally named 19 suspects, including former Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar, who left Turkey before a failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The charges brought against 17 Cumhuriyet employees in the April indictment accuse them of aiding the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and FETÖ.

FETÖ is a derogatory term and acronym for the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to refer to the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the failed coup attempt. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the failed putsch.

The suspects named in the indictment are Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu, the daily’s chief executive officer Akın Atalay, Editor Turhan Günay, editorial consultant Kadri Gürsel, member representative Güray Öz, cartoonist Musa Kart, columnist Hakan Kara, lawyers Bülent Utku and Mustafa Kemal Güngör, manager Önder Çelik, reporter Ahmet Şık, publisher Orhan Erinç, columnists Aydın Engin and Hikmet Çetinkaya, accountant Günseli Özaltay and former employee Bülent Yener.

During the first hearing at the İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court on Monday, Sabuncu demanded that the proceedings be adjourned until July 25, stating that some of his documents and newspaper reports had been confiscated. The court accepted his request.

The suspects were arrested by the İstanbul 9th Penal Court of Peace on Nov. 5, 2016. Atalay was detained at İstanbul Atatürk Airport upon his return from Germany and subsequently arrested on Nov. 12, 2016.

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