Anti-Erdoğan journalists convicted on terror charges

Journalists and executives from the opposition newspaper, which had taken a strong strance against the Turkish government and president, were convicted on terrorism charges following a failed coup in 2016

Turkey's treatment of journalists has caused international outrage
Turkey's treatment of journalists has caused international outrage

A Turkish court has convicted 13 journalists to prison on terrorism charges, for helping outlawed “terrorist” organisations.

The journalists were employees of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, which had taken a strong line against the Turkish government.

The paper has been critical of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and has run front-page stories that have angered the Turkish head of state.

Three of the journalists on trial were acquitted. Those convicted remain free while an appeal is pending.

They were arrested during a crackdown after a failed coup in July 2016.

More than 50,000 people were arrested and 150,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs in the aftermath of the attempted coup, including journalists, police, military personnel, teachers and public servants.

The court in Silivri, outside Istanbul, handed out multiple sentences to 13 journalists and executives for “aiding and abetting terror organisations without being a member” but they remain free pending appeal.

 “No penalty can stop us from doing journalism. If needed, we will go to prison again but we will continue to do honest and honourable journalism,” editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu said after being sentenced to seven years and six months.

The 13 journalists and executives convicted on Wednesday include some of the country's most prominent commentators, such as editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, cartoonist Musa Kart and columnist Kadri Gursel.

Founded in 1924, Cumhuriyet had maintained fierce independence in an increasingly state-controlled media environment, drawing the ire of Turkey's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In a front page editorial ahead of the court hearing on Wednesday, the paper wrote: "Enough is enough with this cruelty." After the verdict, its website read: "You will be shamed in front of history."

Erdogan has been accused of cracking down on press freedom in the country. In March, 25 journalists were jailed for alleged links to Mr Gulen.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemned the convictions and called for all of those found guilty to be freed immediately.

"Turkish authorities must stop equating journalism with terrorism, and release the scores of press workers jailed for doing their job," CPJ Europe and Central Asia programme co-ordinator Nina Ognianova said in a statement in March

According to the P24 press freedom group, there are over 160 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were arrested under the state of emergency imposed after the coup attempt in July 2016.

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