Protesters have gathered in Istanbul to support the Cumhuriyet journalists arrested in what critics say is another attempt to silence opponents of the Turkish government.
The secularist newspaper is one of the few remaining media outlets still critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Founded in 1924, it is the oldest newspaper in Turkey.
Turkey’s main opposition CHP Republican People’s Party helped stage the demonstration in front of the Cumhuriyet headquarters. A number of media associations joined them in holding up copies of the national daily with a front page headline reading “History will shame you.”
CHP MP Baris Yarkadas pointed the finger of blame squarely at the ruling AK Party.
“You, as a government, you are trying to transform journalism into a crime, and you are trying to block the public’s right to information. The people can’t access the right information if even one newspaper is shut down, if even one journalist is arrested. They can’t get the right information.”
Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief, Murat Sabuncu, and eight senior staff members are alleged to have committed crimes on behalf of Kurdish militants and US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen, who is accused of instigating a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July, 2016.
Following the failed takeover, Erdogan holds emergency powers, which allow him to bypass parliament in the drafting of new laws and to curb or suspend rights and freedoms.
Protests have taken place across Europe against the arrests and those of seven politicians from Turkey’s third-largest party, the pro-Kurdish HDP (People’s Democratic Party). All have reportedly been jailed pending trial, although no date is believed to have been set for either hearing.
The World Justice Project this week placed Turkey 99th out of 113 countries in its Rule of Law Index, 2016. This places it behind Iran and Myanmar. It has once again been placed top of the list as the world’s main jailer of journalists.
The crackdown in Turkey has drawn condemnation from the European Union. Following the detention of the HDP journalists, the European Parliament said Turkey had “crossed a red line.”
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s response?
“Brother, we don’t care about your red line… We draw another red line on top of yours.”