Back in November journalists from Turkey’s oldest newspaper, and its opposition paper, Cumhuriyet, were arrested as part of a political crackdown by the Turkish government responding to a failed coup that almost ousted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power. In the wake of the coup, almost 50,000 government employees were suspended and dozens of news organizations ordered to shut down. Accused of helping a terrorist organization by targeting the government with journalism, or, as the Turkish government refers to it, “asymmetrical war tactics,” the Cumhuriyet journalists face sentences ranging as high as 43 years in prison. For cartoonist Musa Kart, whose “crimes” consist of creating political cartoons making fun of Edrogan and his tactics, the government seeks up to a 29 year sentence.
Nonprofit group Cartoonists Rights Network International, which has been monitoring and publicizing the story, issued a statement on the indictments, calling them an “embarrassing effort on the part of the Turkish government to further disappoint its own people” and calling on the government to drop the charges.
“Every freedom loving country in the world should watch events in Turkey with care and see how an apparent slide into tyranny has continued step-by-step over time with apparent ease and impunity,” said CRNI executive director Dr. Robert Russell in the statement. “This can happen in any country when freedom of speech, especially investigative and critical journalism, is throttled and the court system’s independence is eliminated.”
This isn’t the first time Kart has faced jail time for his cartoons. A constant source of irritation for Etrogan, the artist was arrested and faced a nine year sentence in 2014 for drawing a cartoon (pictured here) that showed Edrogan looking the other way while a money laundering scheme pilfered the nation’s treasury. Kart was exonerated in 2015 and continued to use his art to fight tyranny and corruption until his most recent arrest.
CRNI is urging people to show support for Kart and more than 120 other imprisoned journalists on Twitter using the hashtag #FreeTurkeyMedia.
— CRNI (@CRNetInt) April 8, 2017
Amnesty International, which notes that 1/3 of the world’s jailed journalists are in Turkey, making it the number one jailer of journalists in the world, is also campaigning for their release, providing a web page where people can write letters to Turkish Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ calling for the journalists’ release.
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