The Turkish Reporter Sentenced to 22 Years — for a Magazine Cover

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Why you should care

Because we should fear those afraid of those who are telling the truth.

Cevheri Güven and his family watched the coup attempt unfold in Turkey on July 15, 2016, from their home near Istanbul’s Bosporus Strait. Acting on a hunch that he might be targeted by the government, Güven went into hiding in a friend’s home as soon as the smoke cleared.

Güven had been targeted by the Turkish government before. As chief editor of Nokta, a Turkish magazine, he published a controversial 2015 cover featuring a satirical photo of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, doctored to look like he was taking a selfie in front of the coffin of a Turkish soldier. The implication was that the Turkish president used soldiers’ deaths for his own publicity, enraging Erdogan and his supporters.

The crackdown in Turkey continues, and it isn’t only Turks caught in the crossfire.

The instinct to hide proved to be a good one. Within days of the coup attempt, the Turkish government revealed that he was one of 41 journalists wanted for arrest. He would later be sentenced to 22.5 years in jail. After hiding for a month and a half, Güven found a smuggler and crossed to Greece by boat with his family.

A year later, a Turkish politician warned that Güven and other journalists might be targets of assassination by the Turkish government. Güven decided to flee Greece for safer ground, but as one of more than 200,000 Turks who have had their passports canceled by the government since the coup attempt, this meant that he’d have to be smuggled out of Greece and into another country.

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Turkish journalist Cevheri Güven.

So Güven was hidden in the back of a commercial truck and smuggled to Stuttgart, Germany, a journey he describes as longer and more treacherous than his initial one from Turkey to Greece. He couldn’t bear to put his wife and children in more danger, so he decided to make the trip alone.

Given the political nature of his case, Güven hoped he’d get asylum quickly and be able to safely move his family to Germany. To his dismay, the process has been seemingly endless. His wife, Tuba, is also a journalist and has received warnings from the authorities in Greece that she might also be in danger as a result of her work.

Güven, however, continues to work as a journalist. He and other exiled reporters created Bold Medya, a YouTube channel where they detail human rights abuses in Turkey. While wishing he was closer to his fellow journalists, Güven’s been placed by the German government in a Stuttgart suburb where he knows no one. If he is ultimately unsuccessful in getting asylum in Germany, he will seek it elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the crackdown in Turkey continues, and it isn’t only Turks caught in the crossfire. The American government leveled sanctions against two Turkish officials recently to protest the detention of American evangelical Andrew Brunson. Brunson was arrested in late 2016, and was only recently allowed to leave prison for house arrest. He faces a slew of terror charges in Turkey, which the American government considers baseless.

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