Can Dündar is determined to continue his championing of press freedoms
Turkish journalist Can Dündar has criticised Europe for prolonging its dependence on his homeland when it comes to managing the refugee crisis. He also lamented the continent’s relegation of human rights on its list of priorities.
“Erdoğan has taken the refugees hostages and used them against Europe, threatening to unleash them on Europe if he is criticised and, unfortunately, this has worked very well so far,” warned Dündar.
The journalist, who was awarded the 2015 Reporters Without Borders Prize, called it “disappointing” that refugees are “the priority, instead of human rights”. He also expressed his regret that the member states are “sacrificing their values in favour of their interests”.
Dündar spoke to EurActiv Spain’s Luis de Jesús during a visit to France, where Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo presented him with an award for his defence of press freedom.
On President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet said the recent wave of arrests had shown Europe “what kind of man he really is”.
Following the attempted coup on 15 July, European leaders have upped their criticism of Erdoğan, after the Turkish leader unleashed a purge of those he felt were responsible for trying to overthrow his regime. Thousands of arrests of journalists, military personnel and civilians have been made in the months since, with trials slated to start early next year.
While acknowledging that Turkey has begun to realise what “kind of man they are dealing with”, Dündar insisted that the criticism of Erdoğan is “weak” and “too late”.
In the last three months, more than 40,000 people have been arrested for alleged links to cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is accused by Ankara of being the mastermind behind the attempted coup and is currently living in exile in the United States.
More than 130 journalists have been detained and at least 160 media outlets have been closed down for publishing information that is critical of the government.
“The point of all this oppression is to silence society and that’s exactly what he (Erdoğan) is doing,” warned Dündar, who has already served 92 days in prison for revealing that Turkish intelligence services furnished Syrian rebels with weapons back in 2015. He added that “Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world”.
Despite the persecution he has faced, his passport was cancelled and a fresh arrest warrant issued, the 55-year-old said that he will continue to criticise Erdoğan’s regime from the outside and champion press freedoms.
“Nothing has changed for me,” insisted the reporter. “Only the place, now I’m not in prison. But I will continue to defend the rights of my colleagues, our rights, and I’ll continue to criticise the government and warn the Europeans.”
In return, Dündar called for support from Europe and the press in general to deal with the wave of repression crashing against the Turkish media. He maintained that “we have not given up and, hopefully, we will resist”.
“We have to be brave and show solidarity with our colleagues, not only in Turkey, but in Europe as well,” he added. Dündar will soon embark on a new project in Germany, where he will say “all the things that can’t be said” in his homeland.
“More oppression brings more courage and bravery. We are more determined than even and, given that our friends are in prison, we have a responsibility to keep going and be even braver,” he asserted.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Turkey is ranked 151st out of 180 in terms of press freedom.