Reports from Turkey dated 31st October 2016 indicate that several members of staff from the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet have been detained by police following raids on their homes. These include cartoonist Musa Kart, the recipient of our Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award in 2005 and no stranger to harassment from the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. According to The Guardian, some sixteen warrants have been issued and the charges pertain to the attempted coup in Turkey last summer.
This interview carried at the Turkish language 34volt website was recorded Monday. In it Musa states that his home was searched by police at 05:00 and that he was on his way to be questioned.
“This is a comedy. You cannot scare anyone with this sort of oppression. No person with a conscience can accept this picture. You cannot explain this to the world. I am being taken into custody just because I draw cartoons, exclusively because of cartoons. I think everyone will be able to put this in perspective. I’m not going to surrender… I have nothing to hide, no reason to run away… Everything I write and draw is out in the open.” – Musa Kart
This marks a new chapter in Musa’s ongoing persecution by the Turkish state. It is worth noting that despite his declaration of magnanimity after the failed coup, President Erdoğan remains a serial offender when it comes to transgressing the freedom of expression and human rights of cartoonists, journalists and opposition voices of all kinds. Bloomberg reports the arrests at Cumhuriyet are merely part of yet another crack-down that has seen tens of thousands of public sector workers fired, mayors of Kurdish-majority cities arrested and promises made of a return to the death penalty for those found guilty of treason.
The Turkish government has embarked upon a “purge without limits” according to Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International’s Europe Director John Dalhuisen called it “the latest wave in a post-coup purge which has turned Turkey’s once vibrant media landscape into a wasteland.”
CRNI condemns this disgraceful treatment of a globally respected cartoonist and demands his swift release.
UPDATE: In the week since these arrests, Cumhuriyet paper has ran with blank spaces where the contributions from their missing staff would appear. Under the emergency powers in effect in Turkey, police detainees may receive no visitors for as long as five days. The paper reports that lawyers were permitted to meet with whose in custody yesterday evening (3rd November). We await with interest further information on the well being of and prospects for Musa Kart and his colleagues. Committee to Protect Journalists has a summary of the week’s events in Turkey including restrictions to social media in addition to the crackdown on press and opposition politicians.