Can Dündar Writes from Prison

05 Jan 2016
Can Dündar Writes from Prison

Can Dündar, the editor-in-chief of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, Erdem Gül, the paper’s Ankara representative, plus some other 30 journalists are still in prison.

The writers have been held since November 26. They were charged with espionage and other national security offences after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan filed a criminal complaint against them in June 2015 over a May 2015 news story, when they published video and photographic evidence in Cumhuriyet of arms deliveries by the Turkish intelligence services to Islamist groups in Syria. The complaint accused Dündar of trying to manipulate justice with fabricated material and violating confidentiality. The maximum sentence for this charge is life imprisonment.

PEN International has been calling for the immediate and unconditional release of both journalists and once again calls on the Turkish authorities to drop any other charges brought against Dündar for his legitimate expression as a journalist and political commentator.

Can Dündar recently wrote a letter to The Washington Post entitled ‘What’s freedom worth? Less than three billion euros apparently.’

These are some of his words while he is in prison:

‘Turks are renowned for their hospitality.

This attribute, which they take great pride in, is for the most part the result of friendliness, but it also emanates at least in part from an instinctual desire to avoid taking a beating. This is because Turks do not raise their hands against their children in front of guests; the most you’ll hear from a chastising father is “wait until the guests leave, and I’ll show you!” For a child who has grown up hearing this threat, a visitor means safety for as long as he or she remains.

Last month, while accommodating world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Antalya, the Turkish government observed this tradition, taking a break from exerting certain “domestic pressures.” But as soon as the guests left, it added Erdem Gül, Ankara bureau chief at the Cumhuriyet newspaper, and me to the more than 20 journalists it has already put in jail.

In today’s world, which long ago became a global village, one would think that such despotic acts would attract notice and invite repercussions.

But this isn’t necessarily so. There is also the prospect that guests will shut their ears to the screams they hear as they walk out the door in order to maintain relations with their abusive host ; that they will look away when their neighbor’s children receive treatment they wouldn’t tolerate for their own children.

This is how events have transpired in Turkey.

On Nov. 26, I was imprisoned for publishing a news article on trucks being used by the Turkish intelligence service to illegally transport arms into Syria. Then, just days later, the European Union and Turkey came together for a summit on the migration crisis.

In a letter written on behalf of all imprisoned journalists, Gül and I reminded European leaders of the core values of Western civilization, such as freedom of the press, thought and expression. As these leaders walked into the summit in Brussels, they had our letter in one pocket and the 3 billion euros they would give to Turkey in the other.

The money in the right pocket was deemed more important than the letter in the left. Naturally. We watched the news conference announcing the win-win agreement with bittersweet smiles. We drew lessons from the fact that the most fundamental rights were given no voice. Europe paid to rent a far-off refugee camp. Ankara received the payment and obliterated its political infamy. As Europe and Ankara embraced one another, two things were crushed in between: principles and us. Now, in our prison cells built to “Western standards” at Silivri prison, we are like kids our father and his guests beat together.

We are hospitable nonetheless. Come one at a time. All are welcome.’

See the PEN International RAN 2 December 2015, Release and drop all charges against journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül.

For further information please contact Ann Harrison at PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: