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Thu Jul 21, 2016, 05:36 PM


Can Turkey’s Republic Survive Erdogan’s Purge? [View all]

Keeping an independent newspaper in business is hard enough. Try doing it in Istanbul.

July 21, 2016

On the afternoon of May 6 the Turkish journalist Can Dundar was speaking to a television reporter outside Istanbul’s Caglayan courthouse when he noticed a man with a mustache and a navy-blue windbreaker walking toward him, holding a handgun. Dundar (pronounced DOON-dar) is editor-in-chief of the newspaper Cumhuriyet, one of the few Turkish media outlets still openly critical of the government. He and Cumhuriyet colleague Erdem Gul were awaiting their sentences after a monthslong criminal trial. Dundar’s bodyguard had remained inside during the court’s recess. Seeing the gun, the TV reporter said, “Run.”

The man with the mustache fired two shots, shouting, “Traitor!” Dundar hopped to one side, his shoulders hunched, and ducked behind his interviewer, who moved to shelter him. Dundar’s wife, Dilek, grabbed the assailant’s right arm, and a parliamentarian who had been standing nearby bear-hugged the man from behind. Dundar ran a few steps off, then slowed and looked back. He was unscathed, though one bullet had grazed the leg of the TV reporter. Seconds later the attacker was kneeling, with the guns of three plainclothes police officers and the cameras of more than a dozen TV crews trained on him. Then Dundar and Gul went back into the courthouse to receive their sentences: five years in prison for Gul, five years and 10 months for Dundar. (They remain free while their case is on appeal.)

A trim man with a broad face and a springy mane of gray hair, Dundar, 55, became Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief in February 2015. His conviction this May—Dundar says he’s the defendant in so many concurrent cases he’s all but lost track—was the result of a story he published a year earlier detailing how Turkey’s national intelligence agency smuggled weapons into neighboring Syria, most likely for Islamic rebels fighting the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. After the story came out, Turkey’s president and former prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, went on television and promised that the parties responsible for the story “will pay a heavy price.” Six months later, Dundar and Gul were charged with aiding a terrorist organization, attempting to overthrow the government, espionage, and revealing state secrets. So far, the two have been convicted only of the last offense. They’ve already spent three months in pretrial detention, inhabiting adjoining cells in Istanbul’s Silivri Prison until Turkey’s constitutional court ordered their release.

Turkey has never had a truly free press. It has a long tradition of censorship, especially around the combustible politics of its religious and ethnic minorities. And that was before the bloody coup attempt of Friday, July 15, which began with fighter jets buzzing Ankara and military units in Istanbul closing both bridges across the Bosporus. Battles among civilians, police officers, and soldiers left 290 dead and 1,400 wounded. The putsch also showcased the courage of Turkish journalists: The staff at CNN Turk defied a helicopter full of putschist soldiers who showed up to take over their studios, and a photographer for the pro-government daily Yeni Safak was shot dead in the street.



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Reply Can Turkey’s Republic Survive Erdogan’s Purge? [View all]
Purveyor Jul 2016 OP
Mister Twilight Jul 2016 #1