Jailed Turkish editors say arrests are warning to journalists

Two jailed Turkish editors, accused of spying and helping a terrorist group, have told Reuters in a faxed message from prison their arrest was designed to send a warning to journalists.

Editor-in-chief of the left-wing Cumhuriyet newspaper, Can Dundar, and its senior editor, Erdem Gul, were arrested on November 26 over the publication of footage purporting to show the state intelligence agency helping send weapons to Syria.

The issue of Turkey’s involvement in Syria is particularly sensitive as the Nato member comes under pressure to take a more active role in the fight against Islamic State militants there.

President Tayyip Erdogan has cast the newspaper’s coverage as part of a bid to undermine Turkey’s standing on the world stage.

“Our arrest is a clear message aimed at the press, saying: ‘Don’t write.’ This is a direct drive at self-censorship,” the journalists said in a handwritten fax, cleared by a prison committee.

A senior government official denied there was any political agenda behind the investigation and said it was purely a legal matter.

“There is an open breach of law. Such criticism of the government is unacceptable,” the official said.

The detention of the two journalists sparked protests in Turkey as well as condemnation from US and EU officials, concerned that Erdogan and the government are silencing critical voices and exerting too much influence over courts after winning an outright majority in a November 1 election


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