The arrest of daily Cumhuriyet’s chief online editor has triggered criticism from unions and politicians, with many stating that the court ruling is a blow against press freedom and freedom of expression.
An Istanbul court on May 15 ordered the arrest of Oğuz Güven on terror charges three days after he was detained over a tweet shared on the daily’s Twitter account regarding the death of a chief public prosecutor.
Police detained Güven on May 12 in the early hours of the morning, citing a tweet reporting the death of Denizli Chief Public Prosecutor Mustafa Alper after he was killed in a car accident in the Merkezefendi district of the western province of Denizli.
Alper was the first chief public prosecutor to launch an investigation into the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) after the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt, widely believed to have been masterminded by the group.
In his testimony, Güven reportedly said he did not tweet the report himself, adding that it was “shared completely by mistake” in a bid to break the news immediately.
He also noted that the tweet was deleted 55 seconds after it was shared on Cumhuriyet’s official Twitter account.
“That is an indication of the fact that the tweet was posted by mistake,” Güven reportedly testified, denying any “bad intent” behind the post.
“When our reports are examined, it is seen that there is no bad intentions against the slain prosecutor,” he also said.
However, the court ordered the arrest of Güven on charges of “making propaganda of a terrorist organization,” saying that he has legal responsibility over social media posts shared on the daily’s Twitter account.
“There is nothing we can do in the face of this decayedness,” Güven said before being sent to Metris Prison.
After the court ruling, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul lawmakers Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Barış Yarkadaş as well as Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) Secretary-General Sibel Güneş released statements on the issue.
“This news report has no insults or terror propaganda. Our journalist friend Güven has been doing his job for the last 40 years. He is a person who has always adopted an attitude against terrorist groups. Unfortunately we are facing practices that are similar to coup eras,” Yarkadaş said May 15, adding that the case will go down in history as “the headline case.”
Tanrıkulu said that “the courthouse became a graveyard for justice and judiciary.”
“There are no words. There wasn’t any era in history in which the judiciary has been exploited and destroyed by itself every day,” Tanrıkulu said.
Güneş, meanwhile, said “if journalists are arrested over a headline, then it can definitely be said that no one has the freedom of expression.”
“Arresting journalists doesn’t solve the problems in this country. Journalism is not a crime. Journalism is a profession carried out for the people’s right to obtain news,” Güneş said.
TGC head Turgay Olcayto also criticized the court ruling, saying that “the oppression and cruelty on journalists in Turkey is ongoing.”
DİSK Basın-İş, the union to which Güven is a member, decried the arrest, saying that “they are witnesses to Güven’s journalism.”
Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), meanwhile, said the arrest of Güven is “an intimidation against all media.”