The parliamentarian, Enis Berberoğlu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), was detained at the end of his trial at the main Istanbul law courts on 14 June after being convicted of spying and sentenced for leaking a video filmed in January 2014 by Turkish police who tried to intercept a convoy of trucks carrying arms to Jihadi rebels in Syria.
The video was used as the basis of a Cumhuriyet story in May 2015 that caused a sensation because it implicated Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) in the shipment and discredited the government’s claims that the trucks were carrying humanitarian aid.
After President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan branded the leak as “plot” against his government, charges of divulging state secrets, supporting a terrorist organization and spying were brought against Cumhuriyet’s then editor, Can Dündar, and its Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül.
Their case, which ended up being separated from Berberoğlu’s, was also examined by the Istanbul court on 14 June, but their trial was adjourned.
Dündar, who now lives in exile in Germany, has condemned this week’s developments.
“The justice palace is under the presidential palace’s complete control,” he told RSF. “I continue to defend my decision to publish, to defend the truth. We are not the ones who should be tried. It is President Erdoğan and the intelligence services who should be on trial.”
RSF condemns the disproportionate sentence imposed on Berberoğlu, which has all the hallmarks of an act of political revenge by the Turkish authorities, and urges them to drop the charges against Dündar and Gül. “The charge of supporting a terrorist organization is not only completely unfounded but also speaks to the continuing criminalization of journalism in Turkey,” RSF said.
Turkey is ranked 155th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index. The situation of its media was already worrying but has become critical under the state of emergency proclaimed after the July 2016 coup attempt. Around 150 media outlets have been closed, more than 100 journalists are currently in prison and more than 775 press cards have been rescinded.