85. The Commissioner examined, for example, the decisions of criminal judges of the peace to detain journalists and administrators of daily Cumhuriyet, one of the oldest newspapers in Turkey with a consistent record of critical and courageous investigative journalism vis-à-vis Turkish governments from diverse political movements. As of the date of the writing of this memorandum, the detention had already lasted more than 80 days. These journalists were detained on the basis of charges of acting on behalf of a terrorist organisation, without being a member.
86. For example, in its relevant decision regarding the detention of Bülent Utku, Güray Tekin Öz, Önder Çelik, Ahmet Kadri Gürsel, Turhan Günay, Hacı Musa Kart, Hakan Karasinir and Mustafa Kemal Güngör, the 9th criminal judgeship of the peace of Istanbul stated that “scrutiny of news items, headlines and article details published in the Cumhuriyet newspaper lead to the conclusion that the newspaper published many news items which could be
considered propaganda for the FETÖ and PKK armed terrorist organisations”. To support this assessment, the court listed, among others, a number of articles critical of certain government measures taken in the aftermath of the coup attempt, referred to the affair of the arms sent by the Turkish secret services to Syria which was exposed by the newspaper, as well as to disparaging remarks about the newspaper made by former writers of Cumhuriyet, occasional parallels between the headlines of Cumhuriyet and Zaman newspapers, articles on the destruction caused by anti-terrorist operations in the South-East, and numerous other examples of purely journalistic activity which were considered as pieces of evidence. Considering that the collection of evidence had not been completed, and the seriousness of the charges, the judge decided to order the detention of the suspects.
87. The Commissioner is struck by the complete absence of any consideration for freedom of expression in the judge’s assessment, the incongruity of the charges of making propaganda for both FETÖ and PKK at the same time, organisations which have consistently opposed one another, as well as the lack of material evidence establishing any link whatsoever between the suspects and these organisations, aside from a non-contextual reading of newspaper articles critical of the government
88. In the opinion of the Commissioner, these decisions show that these detentions are unjustified. They also strongly suggest that the aim behind them was that of silencing one of the very few remaining critical, but mainstream and respected, voices in the media.
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