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Turkey releases five opposition journalists from jail

Journalists of the opposition Cumhuriyet daily after their release from prison. [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 September, 2019

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Turkey's record of press freedom has worsened over the years, with dozens of journalists arrested.
Five journalists and staff members from the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet have been freed on the orders of Turkey's top appeals court, AFP reported.

Prominent cartoonist Musa Kart was one of the five employees that was released from their prison in northwestern Turkey.

The journalists and staff members had been convicted for "aiding and abetting groups without being a member".

Read more: Turkish ex-deputy PM to form new opposition party

They were accused of supporting organisations such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the far-left Revolutionary People's Liberation Part-Front, and the network run by the US based Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for a failed coup attempt in 2016.

The five were among 14 former Cumhuriyet staff, including journalists and executives, who were sentenced to jail in 2018. Their appeals were rejected by a lower court earlier this year.

The journalists were greeted by supporters and family members as they left their prison Kandira, a northwestern town nearly 150 km from Istanbul.  

Cumhuriyet is one of the few newspapers that is openly critical of President Recip Tayyip Erdogan, and is one of the few media outlets that is run by an independent foundation and not by a businessman. It is the oldest newspaper in the country.

The case has sparked further criticism over the rights of journalists and the freedom of the press in Turkey. The country is ranked 157 out of 180 in the 2019 Freedom Press Index published by Reporters Without Borders, and the Washington Post reported that over a hundred journalists remain detained within the country.

The Cumhuriyet daily has had frequent run-ins with the authorities.

In 2016, the court ruled against Cumhuriyet's then-editor-in-chief Can Dundar, a high-profile Turkish writer who took up the post in February 2015 and moved the paper to the left.

He was at the time handed a five-year-and-10-month jail sentence for revealing state secrets, with his Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul sentenced to five years. Dundar fled to Germany in July 2016 after being found guilty. 

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