‘Turkey is the biggest jail for journalists in the world’

France 24

Can Dündar is the former editor in chief of Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper. After being charged with espionage and surviving an assassination attempt in May 2016, he fled his country and now lives in exile in Germany. Dündar has become a symbol of the crackdown on the press in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He spoke to FRANCE 24 from Geneva about the state of press freedom in his home country.

“I’ve been a journalist for 37 years now, and this is the worst period of time in my life and in Turkey’s history,” Dündar told FRANCE 24’s Marc Perelman. “We’ve never seen such a crackdown before, even during military rule in the 1980s. Turkey is the biggest jail for journalists in the world.”

Dündar also expressed regret that European leaders are not more strongly denouncing the media crackdown, and said this is likely because the EU needs Turkish help with the refugee crisis.

“I am totally and deeply disappointed by the attitude of Europe because of the refugee deal,” he told FRANCE 24. “The deal was that Turkey promised to keep the refugees on Turkish soil and not send them to Europe, and in return I’m afraid Turkey bought [Europe’s] silence.”

“Why is France so silent about this?” Dündar asked. “How can they keep silent against this oppression? It’s really disappointing.”

According to Reporters Without Borders, Turkey has jailed more than 100 journalists and closed down at least 149 media outlets since the attempted coup in July 2016.

Dündar said he was already worried ahead of a “crucial” April 16 referendum on granting greater powers to President Erdogan.

That is when “Turkey will decide between democracy and dictatorship”, he said.