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Turkish Editor Can Dundar: Why I Am Forced Into Exile

Dundar, center, after his release from jail.
Dundar, center, after his release from jail.
Ozgur Ogret
Can Dundar

Can Dündar, a recipient of the *Committee to Protect Journalists' 2016 International Press Freedom Awards who served jail time this past year and was facing another prosecution, announced in his column that he was resigning as editor of the opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet. He is believed to be in Germany, and wrote Monday that he would not return to Turkey until the government lifts the state of emergency declared after a July 15 failed military coup. Here is an excerpt of the column:

ISTANBUL — What I have experienced over the last one-and-a-half years, since I became the editor-in-chief for Cumhuriyet, adds up to an entire lifetime: attacks, praise, threats, being made a target, trial, arrest, prison, isolation, armed assault, insults, awards, new investigations, upcoming trials …

In July, I had asked for a short break from my newspaper: I would rest a little after this tiring adventure, write my book and then come back to work.

Then the bloody coup attempt on July 15 came, and it showed how serious indeed were our warnings up until that point. But the government held us accountable instead of answering for their deep involvement with the coup plotters. They tried to have their old partnership forgotten and their opponents eliminated while they have the chance.

On July 16, two of the high judges who had approved for the release of (Ankara bureau chief) Erdem Gül and myself, after three months of imprisonment, were detained. Some 140 members of the Supreme Court of Appeals, the court that will hear our appeal on the prison sentence of five years and 10 months, had investigations opened against them, and 11 of them were detained. The prosecutor who asked double life sentences for each of us, meanwhile, became the Chief Prosecutor of Istanbul 10 days after that. Two days later, the court that started a new trial against me and Erdem with the accusation of "aiding and abetting" asked the police directorate for the cancellation of our passports.

All signs were pointing to a new lawlessness and a long period of imprisonment. The state of emergency allowed the government to control the judiciary anyway it likes. Trusting such a judiciary would be like putting your head on the guillotine. We would no longer face a court, but the government itself. No higher court would be able to oppose the lawless state. That is why I decided to not to surrender to this judiciary, at least until the state of emergency ends.

I will continue at Cumhuriyet as a columnist. My friend who will take over as top editor will carry the flag even higher. We will see that this too will pass as many coups and periods of oppression have. Cumhuriyet and the craft of journalism, instead, is not and cannot ever be finished.

*Editor's note: Ozgur Ogret, who is Turkey's representative for CPJ, is also a Worldcrunch contributor. He translated this column.

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