Turkish Journalists Freed After 3 Months In Prison
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Politics and Activism

Turkish Journalists Freed After 3 Months In Prison

Erdem Gul and Can Dundar previously faced life sentences for revealing state secrets to the public.

Turkish Journalists Freed After 3 Months In Prison
The Guardian

Three months ago, two Turkish journalists, Erdem Gul and Can Dundar, wrote a report stating that the Turkish government was sending arms into Syria, a country rife with conflict. They were detained in November, and in January, Turkish prosecutors sought to assign three life sentences to both Gul and Dundar on the basis of revealing state secrets, which could be seen as an act of terrorism. Gul and Dundar were imprisoned for 92 days, and eventually, the charges were overruled after Turkey's constitutional court declared them a violation of freedom of press.

In the United States, it may seem outlandish that Gul and Dundar were imprisoned at all. If you look up "Obama secrets," Google takes all of 0.69 seconds to give you 43,800,000 results. Some headlines include "The Obama Secrets Regime" from the renowned Wall Street Journal, "Obama's secret kill list -- the disposition matrix" from The Guardian, and many more. I would wager that none of the authors of these articles have faced criminal charges, especially charges of terrorism.

Not only were Gul and Dundar imprisoned for something we would view as standard journalism, the punishments they faced in jail were atrocious as well. Dundar wrote that the two were kept in isolation for 40 days total, and "that punishment is the same a murderer of five people gets." The Turkish government and prosecutors label Gul and Dundar's actions as espionage, but many others call it freedom of press.

We cannot deny that in the United States, and most other Western liberal democracies, freedom of press is enjoyed and employed much more than in places like Turkey. Erdem Gul and Can Dundar were fortunate enough to be released from prison and have all charges dropped, but over 30 of their colleagues remain in jail. Despite the fact that the Turkish court's decision to overrule the charges was "historic," as Dundar writes, it only bears weight if the same principle is applied for other journalists.

Turkey has not always denied journalists actual freedom of press. In 2006, they ranked 98th out of 180 countries on the Reporter Without Borders' World Freedom of Press Index. In 2015, they ranked 149th. In 2014, they ranked 154th; their upward movement in the rankings between 2014 and 2015 is attributed to the release of 40 imprisoned journalists. However, those journalists continue to face persecution like Gul and Dundar face, and could be re-imprisoned at any time.

News has always been intended as a check against the government; it is the Fourth Estate, after the executive, judicial, and legislative "estates." It has existed so that the people can know if their government is acting for their own selfish interests or in the people's. In the United States, we often take freedom of press for granted; we assume it's a natural right. But we must not forget places like Turkey, and many other nations, where the right to freedom of press is being fought for every day.

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