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Turkish printing press raided over Prophet Mohamed cartoon fears

A private security employee stands guard at the entrance of daily newspaper Cumhuriyet's offices, in Istanbul, 14 January 2015
A private security employee stands guard at the entrance of daily newspaper Cumhuriyet's offices, in Istanbul, 14 January 2015

REUTERS/Murad Sezer

This statement was originally published on on 14 January 2015.

The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned a raid by Turkish police on the printing press of daily Cumhuriyet to prevent the newspaper from distributing an issue that authorities feared might contain images of Mohammed.

Hurriyet Daily News reported that the raid came as Cumhuriyet was preparing to distribute an issue with a four-page supplement containing material from the latest issue of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in a gesture of solidarity following last week's deadly attack on the magazine's Paris office.

Police reportedly detained trucks at Cumhuriyet's printing press in Istanbul under Turkey's press law to prevent distribution of the newspaper's Jan. 14 edition. They allowed delivery to resume after prosecutors determined that no images of Mohammed were present.

“Preventing a newspaper from distributing copies until government officials approve its contents is an unacceptable form of censorship and sets another dangerous precedent for Turkey,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. “Are all media in the country now to be held hostage by the possibility that someone, somewhere might point to a perceived grievance to justify committing crime?

“Turkish authorities should be delivering a strong message on how important free speech is to justice and good governance – even though some people may occasionally be offended, shocked or disturbed – and that violence is never justified. Instead, this raid sends a signal that the right to speak freely is subject to the whims of those willing to shed blood.”

Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Utku Çakırözer said that his newspaper actually had sought to respect religious sensibilities and deliberately refrained from publishing the cover of this week's issue of Charlie Hebdo, which features a cartoon depicting Mohammed shedding a tear and holding a “Je suis Charlie” banner.

Noting that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu travelled to Paris to march in favour of free speech last Sunday, Çakırözer said in an interview today with CNN Türk that “free speech should be defended by the whole of society” and that he hoped for “messages of common sense” after two Cumhuriyet columnists were targeted in threats posted online.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • 3 detained outside Cumhuriyet newspaper

    Police detained 3 individuals who assembled outside Cumhuriyet newspaper to protest their release of four pages from Charlie Hebdo’s latest issue.

  • Turkey censors Charlie Hebdo cartoons

    On Wednesday, the EFJ learned that a Turkish court had ordered to block websites that had re-published cartoons about Prophet Muhammad by Charlie Hebdo. Moreover, Istanbul prosecutors announced an investigation into two columnits (Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya) writing for the daily Cumhuriyet, who illustrated their columns on Wednesday with the controversial Mohammed cartoon.

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