Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdoğan persecutes his critics relentlessly. Undeterred, journalist and documentary maker Can Dündar continues his work.
“Should we leave democracy vulnerable, which despite its many flaws is still the best form of governance, just because it’s increasingly unfashionable? My answer: No!”
For statements like these, Can Dündar spent 92 days in a high-security prison in Istanbul back in 2015. Worse still, he was under threat of life-long imprisonment, accused of espionage and high treason for exposing Turkey’s supply of weapons to rebels in Syria. He responded by continuing his work. And thanking president Erdoğan in an open letter, for showing his hand and giving him, Dündar, a spot on the world stage.
Dündar now lives in Germany and has become one of the most prominent observers of the Erdoğan regime. His articles have appeared amongst others in German newspaper Die Zeit and highlight the authoritarian techniques of the Turkish government: intimidating the opposition, bending and even breaking laws. And not just within Turkey: Dündar wrote about the planned kidnapping of a dissident, allegedly under the protection of the German secret service in Berlin-Neukölln. Dündar himself had an Interpol-warrant out on his name, meant to force him back in front of Turkish courts, which lead to a legal tug of war over the journalist.
From the perspective of the award-winning documentary maker and former chief editor of the newspaper Cumhuriyet, conflicts are never confined to one country – they spill over. For instance, he notes that president Erdoğan has actively sought to export his beliefs and campaign pledges to Germany.
Crucially, and perhaps more important than his awards and articles, Dündar’s work proves that sometimes it only takes one person to cause a totalitarian regime to waver. Notwithstanding the media resonance, that his case caused, one always has to be aware of the fact, that he is but a representative for thousands of pursued journalists and members of the opposition worldwide.