The Cumhuriyet daily, which has recently been targeted by Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, has accused exiled journalist Can Dündar, its former editor-in-chief, and his staff for the majority of the news reports slammed by the minister, local media reported on Friday.
“The majority of the news reports Soylu mentioned when accusing Cumhuriyet [of terrorist links] were released at a time when the Cumhuriyet daily was managed by a secondary Cumhuriyet team headed by Can Dündar,” the daily said in a statement on Friday.
“However, the Cumhuriyet daily is currently published by a [new] team that started work following a four-year legal battle against that [secondary Cumhuriyet] team’s editorial line and attitude,” they added.
“Cumhuriyet’s editorial line is clear: It is in favor of democracy, secularism, freedoms, independence and national integrity,” the daily said, highlighting that allegations regarding that editorial line’s links to any criminal or terrorist organizations were nothing but an attempt at distortion.
In 2018 a Turkish court sentenced 13 Cumhuriyet journalists and executives to prison on terrorism charges while acquitting three in a case that sparked widespread outrage over press freedom and caused over a dozen journalists, the majority of them columnists, to leave the daily.
The case is one of several high-profile trials seen as emblematic of a broader crackdown following a failed coup attempt that targeted the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government on July 15, 2016.
Referring to the statement, Dündar on Friday tweeted that it was true he was the one responsible for the majority of the news pieces condemned by Soylu.
— Can Dündar (@candundaradasi) May 21, 2021
“And I say this with pride, without blaming anyone, without trying to get in Soylu’s good graces, without any shame,” the exiled journalist emphasized.
Dündar, who was arrested in November 2015 and released following a Constitutional Court ruling of “rights violation” in late February 2016, was handed down a 27-year, six-month prison sentence in a trial concerning a news report on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks transporting arms to rebels in Syria.
The story, which was published on May 29, 2015 and headlined “Here are the weapons Erdoğan said don’t exist,” in reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, sparked a political firestorm in Turkey about the role of the Turkish spy agency in arming rebel factions in Syria.
A Turkish court also ruled to seize the exiled journalist’s assets and declared him a fugitive in October.