Can Dündar on press freedom: A call for global solidarity and courage

In a compelling session at the Brave New Media Forum, Can Dündar, the exiled Turkish journalist and former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, spoke candidly about the state of press freedom, the risks journalists face, and the crucial role of journalism in defending democracy.

Dündar, who currently resides in Germany due to political persecution in Turkey, reflected on his decision to publish a story about Turkey’s involvement in arming Syrian Islamists – a move that led to his imprisonment and subsequent exile.

"It was our responsibility, our duty to inform the public."

Despite the personal costs, including threats to his safety and separation from his homeland, Dündar expressed no regrets. “It was our responsibility, our duty to inform the public,” he stated in the talk with DW editor Jakov I. Leon, underscoring the fundamental role of journalism in society.

A diminishing free press in Turkey

A diminishing free press in Turkey Turkey ranks 165 out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders, which is a stark indication of the challenges journalists face in the country. The government’s control over media outlets and the labeling of dissenting voices as terrorists have stifled independent journalism.

Dündar highlighted the chilling effect of such tactics, leading to increased self-censorship among journalists. “The pressure is so high that nobody wants to go to jail,” he remarked, painting a grim picture of the media landscape in Turkey.

Despite these challenges, Dündar remains optimistic about the potential of social media as a tool for truth-telling. He emphasized the importance of adapting to new platforms like TikTok to reach younger audiences and continue the fight for factual information. “We have to use every channel that we can use to reach the young audience,” he said, acknowledging the shift in media consumption patterns.

A call to action for future journalists

Dündar’s message to aspiring journalists and social media activists was clear and inspiring: embrace the risks and use the unprecedented opportunities provided by digital platforms to challenge authority and defend democratic values. “Journalism has never been so dangerous, but it has never been so important,” he asserted.

"Journalism has never been so dangerous, but it has never been so important."

As the talk concluded, Dündar’s words resonated as a powerful reminder of the resilience and courage needed in journalism today. His call for global solidarity among journalists and the need for a collaborative approach to counter autocratic regimes worldwide was a highlight of the Brave New Media Forum, offering both a warning and a beacon of hope for the future of press freedom.