14 journalists and members of Cumhuriyet, the Turkish daily newspaper, have been convicted and sent to prison. According to Human Rights Watch, they are simply being punished for doing what their jobs entail.
Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director of Human Rights Watch, has stated that the convictions of the journalists working for Cumhuriyet took place without any credible evidence whatsoever of wrongdoing. Considering the harsh jail sentences given as well, this event is a deterioration of the democratic credentials in Turkey. He added that this trial is a part of wider systematic efforts to silence the critical voices and independent media in Turkey so as to stop the public scrutiny of the Turkish government.
The evidence which has been cited in the journalists’ indictment is comprised of journalistic work. In other words, interviews, news articles, opinion articles, reporting and phone records have been presented as evidence. It has also been said that they had contacts with people who are alleged to be supporters of Fethullah Gülen. Gülen was the head of the movement that was accused of the 2016 coup attempt by the government of Turkey. Gülen is currently living in the US in self-exile.
The indictment also alludes to the social media posts of the defendants. The written content and journalistic works that were cited does criticize the government policies and the government. However, none of them praise, advocate of incite inviolence at all. In fact, not a single piece of evidence presented in the indictment points to any type of criminal wrongdoing whatsoever, much less helping terrorist groups, said Human Rights Watch.