Can Dündar, the Turkish journalist who gained international notoriety as a symbol of the resistance against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s crackdown on the media, called “shameful” the arrangements between the EU and Turkey to deal with the migration crisis and expressed doubts that they will work.
Dündar, editor-in-chief of Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, spoke in the European Parliament today (14 June), as guest of MEPs from the S&D, the Green and the liberal ALDE groups.
Together with his colleague Erdem Gül, the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief, Dündar was sentenced to more than five years and 10 months in prison on charges of helping an armed organisation and divulging state secrets. He is appealing the sentence.
Dündar and Gül were both given life sentences on charges of spying, being member of a terrorist organisation, and disclosing state secrets, in connection with an article published in May 2015 with evidence that that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) has been delivering arms to rebels in Syria. The newspaper produced a video and photos to support the claim.
Later, under international pressure, Turkey’s Constitutional Court accepted that the two journalists were not responsible for terrorism, and only the charges for revealing state secrets were maintained. However, Erdoğan said he did not accept the Constitutional court decision.
On 6 May a gunman attacked Dündar, who said he believed that this happened because of the President’s rebuttal of the Constitutional court decision.
‘The greatest prison for journalists’
Speaking through a translator, Dündar said he was coming from a country that had become “the greatest prison for journalists” and “a living hell for journalists”. 35 journalists are currently imprisoned in Turkey, according to journalistic organisations. He added that he was very lucky, because he had the chance to speak about this, while many of his Turkish and Kurdish colleagues were in jail because of what they had said or written.
The leaders of the EU have not raised their voices over the situation of journalists in Turkey, Dündar said. Instead, because of the refugee crisis, they have sat on the same table with the authoritarian leaders of Turkey, preferring to sacrifice the values of freedom in exchange on a deal on refugees, the journalist said.
“I think this is shameful”, he said, and added: “Turkey is not only Erdoğan. There is a great Turkey, a big Turkey which wants democracy, and I’m here to make you listen to this Turkey. Just as Europe is not only Le Pen, or Merkel, or Cameron, who says Turkey will not be a member of the EU before the year 3,000. There is another Europe, who shares the same values as we do”, he said.
‘The West represented by Le Pen and Trump’
“Tomorrow, when the West will be represented by Le Pen and Trump, we will have to continue the struggle all together”, Dündar said, adding: “The world today in a horrifying state. We need to stick together, we need to fight for freedom of the press, for human rights, and if Europe will forego its values, it will do nothing good for the world or for itself”.
“The problem of Europe is that it has no vision, no ideals, and is running behind the events”
Dündar said the EU-Turkey deal was a turning point for Europe and a turning point for Turkey too.
“If the EU is going to support an authoritarian government only because of the refugee problem, then I’m afraid that it is going to lose all its credibility in Turkey and in the world”, he said.
Asked about the Turkish definition of terrorism, which the Commission insists should be changed to open up the visa-free travel to the Schengen area of Turkish nationals, Dündar said he didn’t believe it would be changed, because Erdoğan had based its rule on his own idea of anti-terrorism.
‘The EU has no plan B’
If the EU-Turkey deal collapses, Erdoğan will open borders for the 3 million refugees in Turkey to flow into Europe, he said, adding “I don’t believe the EU has a plan B”.
Asked by EURACTIV.com if freedom of the press could still survive in Turkey, following successive takeovers of media by the regime, he said that even if 90% of the media had indeed been taken over, there was still hope, and his newspaper Cumhuriyet was an example of that.
“Freedom of press in Turkey is still alive and we will continue, even without the support of Europe”, he said.
Asked about the recent motion in the German Bundestag recognising the Armenian genocide, the journalist said that this move had only helped the government, because suddenly the opposition had sided with power.
Asked what was Turkey trying to achieve by reportedly helping the Islamists in Syria, he said Ankara was trying to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state.