Exiled Turkish journalist Can Dündar has promised to quit journalism if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan proves his claim that Dündar is a spy, the Özgürüz news website reported on Friday.
At a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, Erdoğan, who is currently on a state visit to Berlin, said Turkey had the right to request the extradition from Germany of Dündar, former editor of opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, describing him as a spy who had been convicted of espionage.
“This person is a convicted criminal according to Turkish law,” Erdoğan said. Merkel said she did not agree with Erdoğan on the issue.
Dündar and a colleague were sentenced in 2016 to five years in prison for publishing a video purporting to show Turkey’s intelligence agency trucking weapons into Syria. They were released pending appeal, and Dündar left the country.
Dündar said Erdoğan lied at the news conference before the eyes of the world by calling him a spy.
“If Erdoğan proves that I am a spy, I will quit the profession. The photos [of intelligence service trucks] we published are those taken by the state itself. The people who should stand trial are not the journalists but those who conducted this operation [to Syria],” said Dündar.
The journalist also added that he has not yet been convicted of any crime in Turkey and said Erdoğan had also lied about that.
Dündar had previously announced that he would attend the press conference and ask questions of Erdoğan, who reportedly might have canceled the briefing over Dündar’s participation. Dündar later said he would not attend.
Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 236 journalists and media workers were in jail as of Sept. 13, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 168 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 147 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)