OSCE media freedom representative welcomes release of prominent journalists in Turkey, calls on authorities to drop charges
VIENNA, 26 February 2016 – The decision of the Constitutional Court to release journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül is a much needed step in the right direction in Turkey, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, said today.
“The release marks an important day for media freedom in Turkey,” Mijatović said. “But the charges against Dündar and Gül must be dropped and Turkey must embark upon the reform of the laws that can currently criminalize journalistic work,” Mijatović said, adding that more than 30 journalists are still in prison in the country.
Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dündar and the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gül were released early Friday morning, following a ruling by the 14th Heavy Penal Court. In its ruling, the court said that the journalists’ rights to “freedom of press and expression, right to personal security” had been violated.
Dündar and Gül were arrested on 26 November 2015 after the newspaper’s reporting and footage of the content of trucks belonging to the National Intelligence Agency. They each face aggravated life sentence, an additional life sentence, as well as 30 years in prison for revealing state secrets in a May 2015 report.
“Criminal punishment for journalistic work, especially the prospect of life in prison, does far more than threaten individual journalists and their families,” Mijatović said. “It can diminish essential pluralistic debates in the society on issues that the public needs to be informed about.”
On 27 November 2015, the Representative condemned the arrest of Dündar and Gül and urged the authorities not to proceed with the charges (see www.osce.org/fom/204281). On 26 January, the Representative said that the aggravated life sentences sought for the two journalists were unacceptable (see www.osce.org/fom/219021).
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on www.facebook.com/osce.rfom.