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Turkey Detains Editor of Right Livelihood-Winning Opposition Paper

Cumhuriyet vows to 'fight to the end for democracy and freedom' after arrests

A security officer stands in front of the Cumhuriyet offices in Istanbul on Monday, October 31, 2016. (Photo: AFP/Getty)

Turkey has detained the editor-in-chief of the country's leading opposition newspaper and issued arrest warrants for at least 13 other journalists and executives in a continued crackdown on free speech that followed a failed coup earlier this year.

State media reported Monday that Cumhuriyet editor Murat Sabuncu was detained while Turkish police searched for the newspaper's executive board chairman Akin Atalay and writer Guray Oz. The government reportedly launched the operation against the daily for alleged "activities" on behalf of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has blamed for the coup attempt, and the outlawed leftist group Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), based in Turkey and Iraq. Authorities also shuttered an additional 15 media outlets.

In the wake of the failed July coup that sought to oust Erdoğan from power, the government arrested thousands of people, shuttered at least 131 media outlets, and fired tens of thousands of public servants. Dozens of journalists fled, while human rights watchdogs alleged torture of detained dissidents.

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Sabuncu's arrest came shortly after the newspaper and its staff was granted the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the alternative Nobel Peace Prize, for continuing to publish opposition content amid government repression and turmoil. Cumhuriyet is Turkey's oldest secular newspaper.

"In the face of immense personal risks, Cumhuriyet is flying the flag of free speech in Turkey, during a critical time for the people of that nation," Right Livelihood Foundation executive director Ole von Uexkull said at the time.

On Monday, Cumhuriyet published a statement on its website vowing to "fight until the end for democracy and freedom" in a headline titled "We Will Not Surrender," according to the Irish newspaper The Journal.

"Cumhuriyet is a newspaper and being a journalist is not a crime," the statement read. "Believing in its journalism, it continues, and will continue its publication."

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