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US calls on Turkey to release Cumhuriyet journalists

Ilhan Tanir, Washington DC

US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert, on Thursday press briefing, called on Turkish government to “release the journalists and others who we believe are being held arbitrarily under the government’s state of emergency.”

A total of 17 journalists and staff from one of Turkey’s oldest newspapers, the left-leaning daily Cumhuriyet, are on trial for charges related to the failed coup attempt in July 2016 on trumped-up charges. Trial began on Monday after over 9 months of pre-trial detentions of 12 Cumhuriyet journalists and staff.

US spokesperson Nauert stated, US “remains seriously concerned about widespread arrests, pre-trial detentions that’s taking place in Turkey against individuals in Turkey who have been critical of the government.” Nauert also added that many of State Department officials are following the case very closely.

Nauert continued: “We Continue to urge the Turkish government to respect and ensure the freedom of expression, fair trial guarantees, judicial independence and other human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Spokesperson also urged Turkish government to “release the journalists and others who we believe are being held arbitrarily under the government’s state of emergency.”

Nauert told reporters at the State Department briefing that she spoke on Thursday morning with US Ambassador Bass regarding the case and noted that US Embassy personnel went to observe some of those trial proceedings in the past joining colleagues from other missions. Ambassador Bass previously visited Cumhuriyet Newspaper headquarters as well and Nauert said the fact Ambassador “has gone there to express his support for journalists there, his support for our belief in freedom of expression, including freedom of expression that other governments and other individuals might find uncomfortable.” Nauert added that “Ambassador continues to underscore our support for free, independent media, important work they do in democratic societies.”

According to the Turkish independent news website P24, 166 journalists have been jailed. Turkey is still the leader country in the world jailing journalists. Nearly 200 media outlets closed since the putsch. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more journalists are imprisoned in Turkey than any other country at any time since the organization began keeping records in 1992.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pushed back on criticism of his government’s treatment of journalists, saying only two of those in jail actually possess press cards.

“The rest are either terrorists, or they were carrying guns, or they robbed ATM machines,” he told BBC News earlier this month.

 

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