Can Dündar, Turkey

Can Dündar (Quelle: PEN International)

In May 2016, Can Dündar, Turkish journalist, documentary filmmaker, author, and editor in chief of the newspaper Cumhuriyet, was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison. His colleague, Erdem Gül, was condemned to five years imprisonment. International media deemed the trial against the two government-critical journalists a “strike against Turkish freedom of press” and there was tremendous public attention from the outset.

A report in Cumhuriyet about Turkish arms shipments to Syrian extremists in 2015 formed the background for the accusations against the editor in chief and his colleague. In November of the same year, both journalists were arrested on suspicion of “espionage” and “membership in a terrorist group”. In addition, they were accused of having disseminated state secrets. President Erdoğan personally reported the offence and was allowed as joint plaintiff with the Turkish secret service. The arrest of Dündar and Gül soon led to international criticism.

In February 2016, the constitutional court initiated the release of both journalists on the grounds that their personal freedom and safety as well as the freedom of press had been violated. Erdoğan commented on the decision of the court by saying that he would neither acknowledge nor follow the instruction. In an interview with ZEIT, Dündar interpreted this as a signal to courts and an emblem of the governmental pressure exerted on them.

On 25th April, Dündar was initially sentenced to a fine of roughly 9000€ for offence against the president. In May, the court declared Dündar and Gül guilty of having distributed secret documents. In the context of the trial, an attempted attack on Dündar occurred. A man attempted to shoot him but the assassination failed and Dündar survived unscathed. In an interview with the newspaper Die Welt, his colleague Gül equated the attempted assault with a message to government critics: “Do not report, otherwise you will experience the same!”.

Until December 2017, Can Dündar will make contributions to the German Writers-in-Prison/Writers-at-Risk Programme as a fellow.