Media freedom in tatters similar to authoritarian regimes, CHP leader says

“It is not possible to talk about media freedom in partial democracies like us. They [the media] are under a siege that is similar to that found in dictatorships,” CHP leader Kemal Kılıcdaroglu said on Tuesday.

The editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet daily, Can Dundar, and the paper’s Ankara representative Erdem Gul were arrested at the end of last month on charges of aiding a terrorist organization, espionage and revealing confidential documents.

Speaking during the party’s parliamentary group meeting, Kılıcdaroglu said the distinctive characteristic of the media in authoritarian regimes is that a part of the media is controlled by the government, while those media outlets with an objective publishing policy are kept under heavy government pressure.

Heads of media outlets with an objective publishing policy are told to fire journalists whom those in power disapprove of, the CHP leader said, noting there are many such cases in Turkey.

In the past two weeks, three leading journalists were unexpectedly dismissed from the Hurriyet daily. The dismissal came after Cem Kucuk, a pro-government columnist, warned the Dogan Media Group, of which Hurriyet is a part, to fire certain journalists deemed anti-government.

Kucuk told media mogul Aydın Dogan, “From now on, we will manage you,” while ordering him to fire certain journalists during a TV program aired at the beginning of last month.

Kılıcdaroglu defended the Cumhuriyet daily for publishing the story about the illegal transfer of arms to Syria by trucks that turned out to be operated by Turkey’s intelligence organization, saying that was true journalism.

Noting the daily has always paid a price in various time periods since its foundation, but has continued to exist, the CHP leader said, “But those dictators went into the trashcans of history.”

The Cumhuriyet report said the trucks’ cargo included 1,000 artillery shells, 1,000 mortar shells, 50,000 machine gun bullets and 30,000 heavy artillery bullets.

The two journalists, who are being accused of “deliberately and willfully aiding a terrorist organization without being a member of it, military and political espionage and revealing confidential documents by publishing the report about the weapon-loaded trucks, are currently in a prison in Silivri.

Underlining that the daily’s report about trucks is 100 percent true, Kılıcdaroglu argued Dundar and Gul are being punished for revealing that the government had previously lied about the content of the trucks.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had earlier said the trucks contained humanitarian aid that were bound for Turkmens in Syria. The government did not explain why Turkey was secretly transporting humanitarian aid to Syria.

“Is this democracy?” the CHP leader demanded to know.

The trucks in question were intercepted by the gendarmerie on two occasions in January 2014 after prosecutors received tip-offs that they were illegally carrying arms to Syria.

An investigation was launched after Cumhuriyet published photos in May of the arms which it said the Syria-bound trucks operated by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) contained.