Prominent Turkish journalist Can Dundar was sentenced on Friday to five years and ten months in prison for revealing state secrets only hours after an attempted assassination on his life.
Dundar is the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, the Istanbul newspaper that made international headlines last year when it published images of alleged Turkish trucks delivering ammunition to Syrian rebels. The story attempted to establish a definitive link between the Turkish government and Syrian rebels on the ground. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) admitted that the trucks in the photos came from MIT but denied the accusation that the weapons were being delivered to Syrian rebels. Erdogan and MIT were the plaintiffs in the case against Dundar.
Considered a traitor by many in his native Turkey, Dundar was on his way to the sentencing when a man displayed a pistol and fired two shots in his direction from only feet away. The shot narrowly missed, and the gunman was immediately subdued by Dundar’s lawyer and wife. He was arrested and will face charges, though it remains to be seen whether he will pay a heavy price for an attempted assassination that was backed by many of his countrymen.
Dundar is the latest in a long line of Turkish journalists who have faced such an assassination attempt. In 2007, Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, was shot and killed on an Istanbul street during a sunny afternoon. In 2010, Metin Alatas was attacked while distributing the Kurdish newspaper Azadiya Welat. Months later he was found hanging from a tree. In 2014, Serena Shim of Press TV was killed when her driver drove the car into a cement mixer only days after she was publicly accused by the MIT of being a spy.
Under the ruling AK Party, Erdogan and the Turkish government have seized control of numerous opposition newspapers and television channels. They are also known to have cut the satellite feed of a pro-Kurdish channel under the justification that the channel promoted terrorism. In the case of Dundar, President Erdogan assured his penalty “would be harsh.”
Complete Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Expression are outlined in the Turkish constitution. However in practice they are undermined by the penal code, the criminal procedure code, and antiterrorism laws. President Erdogan is known to harshly criticize Turkish journalists who publish material counterintuitive to the regime’s agenda. Freedom House gives Turkey a “D” rating for Freedom of the Press.