This content is not available in your region

Release of Turkish journalists 'a clear defeat' for Erdogan

Access to the comments Comments
By Keith Walker  with Reuters
Release of Turkish journalists 'a clear defeat' for Erdogan

The release of two Turkish journalists has been described by one of them as a “clear defeat” for the country’s president.

Can Dundar from opposition newspaper Cumhuriet was speaking to reporters with his freed colleague Erdem Gul.

Both were released after a ruling by Turkey’s top court that their rights had been violated.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he does not respect the court’s decision.

“We have a president who is not accustomed to defeat,” said Can Dundar, Cumhuriet’s editor-in-chief. “Rather than accepting the ruling, he is seeking to turn it into a state crisis. He said he would not recognise or obey the ruling. This is the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic that a president has said he will not obey a decision.”

The two journalists were detained after their newspaper published material it said shows intelligence officials trucking arms to Syria in 2014.

The two journalists, who still face trial and potential life sentences, were arrested in November and charged with intentionally aiding an armed terrorist organisation and publishing material in violation of state security.

Their detention has deepened concerns about media freedom in Turkey, which aspires to join the European Union. Erdogan says the case is not about press freedom but about espionage and says he does not respect the court ruling.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a close ally of Erdogan, echoed the president’s remarks on the case on Wednesday, saying the court ruling should not affect the journalists’ trial.

“It is wrong for the constitutional court to see itself as the primary court and intervene in the whole judicial process,” Davutoglu told a news conference, adding that the case was about revealing state secrets and espionage.

Advocates of free speech criticised the government’s stance.

“The words Mr Erdogan used … is setting up a climate of intimidation and even threats against journalists. What he does is really dangerous,” said Christophe Deloire, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders..

Dundar chided the EU for failing to press Turkey over basic rights, saying Brussels was too focused on securing Ankara’s cooperation in stemming the flow of migrants from the Middle East to Europe.

“While we were in prison, there was bargaining going on over money for refugees. We see this as dirty bargaining to keep refugees off European territory,” he said.

“It appears Europe is willing to concede its long-term principles for short-term gains.”