Skip to main content

Turkey arrests editor and senior writer at main opposition paper

Around 13 arrest warrants were issued for senior staff members of the secular-nationalist Cumhuriyet newspaper
Headquarters of Cumhuriyet newspaper is pictured in Istanbul (Reuters)

Turkish police on Monday detained the editor-in-chief and a leading columnist from the Cumhuriyet newspaper, one of the last opposition newspapers to remain untouched by the post-coup crackdown in the country.

Chief editor Murat Sabuncu and columnist Guray Oz were detained early on Monday morning, with police also searching the former’s house.

According to CNN Turk, the paper - which is generally considered to be of secular-nationalist leanings - is accused of promoting the agenda of both the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the movement led by US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, which Turkey blames for the failed 15 July coup attempt.

The charges by the Istanbul prosecutors office accuse them of support for the groups "without being a member".

Arrest warrants were also reportedly issued for Akin Atalay, the head of Cumhuriyet’s board of directors and Hitmek Cetinkaya, another board member. In total detention warrants have been issued for 13 executives and writers at the paper.

Sabuncu was appointed editor of the paper after the previous editor Can Dundar stepped down following his own six-year jail sentence for publishing a story about Turkish intelligence allegedly smuggling weapons across the border into Syria.

Dundar is now believed to be based in Germany although his exact whereabouts have been kept quiet.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) condemned the action taken against Cumhuriyet and promised "we will fight together” against the government’s repressive policies.

Other Turkish journalists moved to criticise the operation as politically motivated:

However, some pro-government journalists lauded the move against Cumhuriyet.

Cem Kucuk, a columnist known for supporting the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) government, said there should be moves to shut down the paper in the same fashion as the Gulenist Zaman newspaper and left-wing Ozgur Gundem:

More than 100,000 people have already been dismissed or suspended and 37,000 arrested since the failed coup, in an unprecedented crackdown that Erdogan says is crucial to wipe out Gulenist networks from the state apparatus.

Media freedom advocates have strongly condemned the clampdown on opposition journalists and media workers in Turkey - which had been ongoing long before the 15 July coup - warning that press freedom in the country is under serious threat.

Last week, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the Turkish government to “release those journalists and media workers being held without compelling evidence of criminal activity, including well-known journalists such as as Nazli Ilicak, Sahin Alpay, Asli Erdogan, Murat Aksoy, Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan” and stressed that media workers “should not be detained on the basis of the content of their journalism or alleged affiliations, including in cases where charges are brought against them, and underlines the need to ensure that pre-trial detention remains an exception.”

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.