November 3, 2016

Turkey arrests eleven more journalists, from an “institution of the republic”


Via WikiMedia Commons.

Lately, we’ve had all too much opportunity to report on a sweep of arrests of Turkish writers and journalists, and closures of the news organizations they work for, which has proceeded apace despite a major international outcry against it. (Turkey has also made significant efforts to control its image internationally, some disturbing, some bizarre, some seemingly both.)

Now, the Turkish news daily Hürriyet reports, another eleven journalists can be added to the tally, executives and columnists at Cumhuriyet, another major Turkish paper. The arrestees include editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu and books section editor Turhan Günay. Like the recent detention of novelist Aslı Erdoğan, the Cumhuriyet arrests were made on charges of terrorism — in particular, charges of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ). In a statement, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş described the arrests as the culmination of an investigation that had been open for nearly three months, and that it “would not be correct” to express any opinion about them.

The move was slammed in a statement by Selin Sayek Böke, a spokesperson for Turkey’s opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who described the arrests as a joint operation by the “fraternity” of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and FETÖ, and called Cumhurriyet her party’s “red line.” She continued:

Cumhuriyet is not an ordinary newspaper, it is a monument of the history of the foundation of the young republic and it is a memento of the founder’s will. It is the newspaper of Uğur Mumcu, [Taner] Kışlalı, [Bahriye] Üçok, [all Cumhuriyet journalists assassinated in the nineties] and İlhan Selçuk. It is a force, of which all putschists would be afraid, and an institution of the republic.

Any attack on Cumhuriyet newspaper is an overt attack on our republic. It is not a coincidence that the AKP regime is attacking daily Cumhuriyet. People who believe in progress and who are democrats will not surrender Cumhuriyet to AKP fascism.

Böke also noted that the prosecutor leading the Cumhuriyet investigation, Murat İnam, is himself currently facing charges of membership in FETÖ, and that the paper only a few days ago had published reporting that connected the AKP with FETÖ, for which the arrests might be retribution.

Speaking to Benedicte Page of the Bookseller, Turkish literary agent Nermin Mollaoğlu described herself as “emotional and worried” in the face of the latest arrests. She added, “This will pass and we will find right in the end. My reaction is to work harder to introduce my writers to the world so people open their minds and hearts to our region.”



Ian Dreiblatt is the former Director of Digital Media at Melville House.