ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The trial of reporters and executives of Cumhuriyet, one of Turkey’s last remaining opposition newspapers, will begin Monday as activists condemn the ongoing crackdown on free speech in the country.
Seventeen reporters and executives face charges ranging from support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to the Fethullah Gulen movement.
Turkey views the PKK, which has been waging a decades-long resistance against the Turkish government for broader Kurdish rights, as a “terrorist” organization.
Similarly, Ankara accused the Gulen movement of masterminding last July’s failed military coup attempt to overthrow the government.
Rights activists argue the trial is an “assault on freedom of expression and the accusations are absurd,” the Guardian reported.
The Cumhuriyet newspaper was widely recognized for its commitment to secularism, warning of the dangers of the Gulen movement and the PKK.
Activists believe the charges laid against the reporters and executives are meant to replace the newspaper’s board of directors with government approved appointees.
Aydin Engin, a veteran journalist with Cumhuriyet standing trial, said the denial of free speech in the country has been going on “for a long time.”
“I will say that I am ashamed and in agony for my country because of these irrational accusations,” he added.
As of March 2017, 173 media outlets have been shut down in Turkey, with over 2,500 journalists being laid off as a result.
Additionally, 800 other reporters have had their press cards revoked.
Founded in 1924, Cumhuriyet has yet to be closed by the Turkish government, though its fate seems inevitable.
“It’s going to be worse for Cumhuriyet,” Engin said. “Maybe it will be a shutdown, a quick and painless death, or we will suffocate slowly.”
Editing by G. H. Renaud