|A composite image showing OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir and UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye. (OSCE/Micky Kroell and OSCE/Julia Shropshire)|
Warsaw, 12 September 2017 - Following last night's court decision denying the release of six Cumhuriyet journalists and executives, Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, emphasized the urgent need to restore media freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey.
“Turkey’s repression of media freedom and freedom of expression poses a direct threat to the safety of journalists and to journalism in the country,” the two media freedom watchdogs said. "The Cumhuriyet journalists and executives have already spent almost a year in prison for reporting issues of great public interest that the authorities deemed off limits. The decision to keep them in prison is not only unworthy of a democracy, it also ignores all related international commitments the country has signed up to protect.”
Last night the Silivri Court outside of Istanbul ruled to keep Cumhuriyet journalists and executives Akın Atalay, Ahmet Kemal Aydoğdu, Kadri Gürsel, Emre İper, Murat Sabuncu and Ahmet Şık in prison. The defendants, imprisoned between October 2016 and April 2017, continue to face prison sentences ranging from 7.5 to 43 years. Their indictments, which came more than five months after their initial detention, charge them with "being a member of an illegal organization", "aiding an illegal organization while not being a member" and "employment-related abuse of trust."
"We have repeatedly urged Turkey to drop charges against the Cumhuriyet journalists and executives. They must be released immediately, together with all journalists in prison in the country,” the two mandate holders said. “Freedom of expression is not a right that may only be exercised when deemed convenient by those in power.”
Désir and Kaye also spoke out against bringing any additional charges against journalist Ahmet Şık for his defense statement delivered in court on 26 July 2017: “Ahmet Şık embodies what investigative journalism is all about. He wrote about public issues years before they manifested themselves, only to find himself in prison for his warnings. It is essential that he and all his imprisoned colleagues are finally given freedom and safety to carry out their important work.”
They continued to call upon the authorities of Turkey to engage in legal and policy reforms that would pave the way to the protection of media freedom and freedom of expression:
“It is only through fundamental legal and policy reforms that journalists, bloggers and social media users can exercise their rights to freedom of expression in the country. We continue to offer our assistance to Turkey and urge the authorities to change course without delay.”
The Cumhuriyet trial will resume on 25 September 2017.