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Last Tuesday, a court in Istanbul threw out an appeal against the detention of two editors from a top daily newspaper as a global media rights watchdog launched a major petition for their release. The higher Istanbul court rejected the appeal from lawyers for the Cumhuriyet daily’s editor-in-chief Can Dundar and its Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul who had been arrested on “spying” charges last week, the Dogan news agency reported.

The appeal had been made to the Istanbul criminal court on the simple grounds that the ruling contravened the Turkish constitution and law. The case of the two journalists — both hugely prominent figures on the Turkish media scene — has amplified concerns about press freedom in Turkey under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Tuesday launched an international petition for their release, with initial signatories including US linguist Noam Chomsky, French economist Thomas Piketty and Turkish pianist Fazil Say. The petition accuses Erdogan of “waging a methodical crackdown on the media in Turkey for years” and persecuting journalists “in an increasingly ferocious manner”. “The Erdogan regime’s arrests, threats and intimidation are unworthy of a democracy,” added the petition.

RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire said the Turkish authorities appeared to prosecute journalists more than IS jihadists. “The Turkish authorities are targeting the wrong enemy,” he said at a news conference in Istanbul. “We appeal to the government, as a matter of honour, to restore all the conditions of pluralism, starting with freedom for journalists,” he added.