ECHR finds Turkey guilty of violating rights of Cumhuriyet journalists

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday ruled that Turkey violated the freedom of expression and the right to freedom and security of Cumhuriyet newspaper journalists.

"The applicants’ pre-trial detention in the context of the criminal proceedings against them, for offences carrying a heavy penalty and directly linked to their work as journalists, had amounted to an actual and effective constraint and constituted 'interference' with the exercise of their right to freedom of expression," the ECHR said.

On Oct. 31, 2016, 13 of Cumhuriyet’s staff were arrested in early-morning police raids on their homes. Seventeen employees out of an initial 20 defendants were charged with various terrorism offences and abuse of authority. While three were acquitted during the first trial period, among those convicted were some of Turkey’s best known journalists and commentators, including Cumhuriyet’s Editor-in-Chief, Murat Sabuncu; columnist and Kadri Gürsel; and cartoonist Musa Kart.

Turkish authorities accused the journalists of supporting a range of groups with vastly different ideologies it has labelled terror organisations, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the left-wing Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, and the Islamist movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the failed coup.

In 2019, Turkey was placed second among 140 countries in violating the European Convention on Human Rights and is one of the forerunners in applications the ECHR receives, ranking at number four.