Erdogan is Turkey's biggest media boss, says accused journalist

Can Dundar is editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, the newspaper known for its critical stance towards the Turkish government.

Prosecutors are now accusing him and Erdem Gul, chief of the Ankara bureau, of publishing secret documents, espionage and supporting a terrorist organisation.

The accusation is connected to a 2015 report in Cumhuriyet alleging Turkish weapons deliveries to extremists in Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the deliveries were relief goods and has personally pressed charges against Dundar and Gul.

Dundar explains his view of the situation in an interview with dpa.

dpa: Turkey's Constitutional Court recently ruled to have you released from pre-trial detention. President Erdogan criticized the move and said he would not respect the court's decision. Do you feel that Erdogan's comments are influencing the process?

Dundar: A president cannot say that he does not recognize a decision by the Constitutional Court. This, under constitutional law, is actually a punishable offence.

It is also a threat - the judges who do not rule according to his wishes are fired or transferred elsewhere. Just put yourself in the shoes of such a judge who is to question us on Friday. What would you do?

So, of course, the judges feel this pressure. It's also a reason why Turkish justice is in the state it's in. A judge who stands up has to be extremely brave. We hope that they will be brave.

dpa: Have you ever given thought to leaving the country?

Dundar: No, I never considered it and I am also not thinking of this now. It would be taken as me admitting my guilt. I don't feel that I am guilty, and so I will continue to defend myself, my country and my profession. If the defence of democracy exacts a price, then we must pay it. This also can mean going to prison.

dpa: How do you see the situation of the media in Turkey?

Dundar: Turkey was never a paradise for journalists. Just the newspaper alone that I work for has four martyrs of the profession - meaning four murdered journalists.

We are also a newspaper that in any period is under pressure. This is the case for many newspapers in Turkey. Some have been victims of bombings, others have been censored, or during the period of the military putsch were closed down.

But honestly speaking, not even in the times of the military putsch have we experienced such intense pressure.

dpa: What has changed?

Dundar: In contrast to his predecessors, Erdogan this time has created his own media - he has purchased newspapers. He also got business people who are on his side to buy up newspapers. As a result, Erdogan is the biggest media boss in Turkey today.

dpa: Among others, you stand accused of espionage because Cumhuriyet reported on weapons deliveries from Turkey to Syria. Would you do it again?

Dundar: Of course. This is about direct action taken with regard to Syria's affairs. The fact of the secret service of a country carrying out weapons deliveries is an offence at international level.

This is no state secret, but rather Erdogan's personal secret. And because we uncovered it, they are reacting so strongly towards us. They are not denying anything, but instead are accusing us because we uncovered it. For they were caught red-handed.

dpa: You have repeatedly accused Europe of staying silent about the difficult situation of the press in Turkey. What is your opinion of the refugee agreement that the EU recently concluded with Turkey?

Dundar: Europe has made a huge mistake. Erdogan held out his joker in the refugee issue and made people forget his repressive policies.

Put another way: Europe has told Erdogan, 'do what you want at home, but don't send us any more refugees.' Unfortunately, this is a dirty deal. We feel we have been sacrificed in this matter.

dpa: The Kurds think along similar lines and complain that Europe is not interested in the conflict in the south-east. But isn't it also the case that in western Turkey scarce attention is paid to this conflict?

Dundar: Yes, unfortunately this is so. Turkey is split not only geographically, but also sociologically and psychologically. The East and West have difficulty understanding one another. And as long as they don't understand each other, there will be no peace in sight.

dpa: Where is Turkey now heading?

Dundar: Erdogan is driving a car with faulty brakes at full speed towards a wall. I'm not bothered by this, except that unfortunately we are also sitting in this car. We have seen that he is under pressure from outside while at home he is facing serious problems.

The country is in danger of civil war and Turkey has spun out of control. I believe that this will come to an end in the foreseeable future. The problem is building things up after Erdogan. Here we lack an alternative plan.

Last update: Fri, 25/03/2016 - 10:10

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