November 9, 2016

Turkish journalist made honorary citizen of Paris

Can Dündar Credit: AFP

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is delighted that leading Turkish journalist Can Dündar – a 2015 RSF Press Freedom Prize laureate who is currently the subject of an arrest warrant in Turkey – was made an honorary citizen of Paris at a ceremony today at the Paris city hall.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said she was relieved and pleased to be able to award the City of Paris medal in person to Dündar, who until recently was the editor of the Istanbul daily Cümhuriyet.

“Everyone knows that your crime was doing your job as a journalist,” Hidalgo said, adding that he embodied “the aspiration of the Turkish people to live in a free country (...) and the commitment of Turkish journalists to media pluralism.”

In his reply, Dündar stressed the importance of this support from Paris at a time when Turkey “is undergoing one of the darkest hours in its history,” and paid tribute to the journalists and politicians currently in prison, some of whom have still had no access to a lawyer. “Today I feel stronger and better supported,” he concluded.

Both Hidalgo and Dündar voiced support for RSF’s Turkey representative, Erol Önderoglu, whose trial opened today in Istanbul and will resume on 11 January. And they both stressed the importance of Önderoglu’s work for RSF during this grim period for journalism in Turkey.

“At a time when Turkish journalists are the target of an unprecedented crackdown, this tribute to Can Dündar is a valuable gesture of support to all of his colleagues,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “It also an encouragement to all those throughout the world who are fighting against the odds to fulfil their duty to report the news.”

Dündar is a leading figure in the fight for media freedom in Turkey, a fight that is more necessary and more dangerous than ever. As well as having edited Cümhuriyet, he has written books and made documentaries.

He and fellow Cümhuriyet journalist Erdem Gül were sentenced to five years and ten months in prison in May on a charge of divulging state secrets because of their revelations about Turkish arms deliveries to Islamist groups in Syria.

Released pending the outcome of his appeal, Dündar narrowly escaped being shot by a gunman as he left a court hearing in May. The murder attempt seems to have been encouraged by a hostile government campaign branding Dündar as “traitor.” Like Gül, Dündar is facing an additional charge of “helping a terrorist organization.”

He fled Turkey after the 15 July coup attempt, which triggered an unprecedented purge against critical media outlets. His wife, Dilek, has been unable to join him because the Turkish authorities have confiscated her passport, effectively holding her hostage.

Under the state of emergency declared on 20 July, more than 100 media outlets have been dissolved by decree, dozens of journalists have been jailed and hundreds of journalists have been the subject of bureaucratic sanctions imposed without reference to the courts.

Turkey is ranked 152nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.