Dink, 52, managing editor of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, was shot outside his newspaper's offices in Istanbul. Dink had received numerous death threats from nationalist Turks who viewed his iconoclastic journalism, particularly on the mass killings of Armenians in the early 20th century, as an act of treachery. In a January 10 article in Agos, Dink said he had passed along a particularly threatening letter to Istanbul's Sisli district prosecutor, but no action had been taken.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Dink's murder as an attack against Turkey's unity and promised to catch those responsible, according to international news reports. A day later, police arrested the alleged triggerman, 17-year-old Ogün Samast, who reportedly confessed to the crime. Erhan Tuncel and Yasin Hayal, described as ultranationalist Turks opposed to Dink's political views, were accused of conspiring with Samast to carry out the murder. In all, 19 people went on trial beginning in July.
In the last 15 years, 18 other Turkish journalists have been killed for their work, many of them murdered, making it the eighth-deadliest country in the world for journalists, CPJ research shows. The last killing was in 1999. More recently, journalists, academics, and others have been subjected to pervasive legal harassment for statements that allegedly insult the Turkish identity, CPJ research shows.
Dink, a Turkish citizen of Armenian descent, had been prosecuted several times in recent years-for writing about the mass killings of Armenians by Turks at the beginning of the 20th century, for criticizing lines in the Turkish national anthem that he considered discriminatory, and even for commenting publicly on the court cases against him. His office had also been the target of protests.
In July 2006, Turkey's High Court of Appeals upheld a six-month suspended prison sentence against Dink for violating Article 301 of the penal code in a case sparked by complaints from nationalist activists. His prosecution stemmed from a series of articles in early 2004 dealing with the collective memory of the Armenian massacres of 1915-17 under the Ottoman Empire. Armenians call the killings the first genocide of the 20th century, a term that Turkey rejects.
Ironically, the pieces for which Dink was convicted had urged diaspora Armenians to let go of their anger against the Turks. The prosecution was sharply criticized by the European Union, which Turkey has sought to join. Dink said he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, to clear his name.
Dink edited Agos for all of the newspaper's 11-year existence. Agos, the only Armenian newspaper in Turkey, had a circulation of just 6,000, but its political influence was vast. Dink regularly appeared on television to express his views.
In a February 2006 interview with CPJ, Dink said that he hoped his critical reporting would pave the way for peace between the two peoples. "I want to write and ask how we can change this historical conflict into peace," he said.
In the interview, Dink said he did not think the tide had yet turned in favor of critical writers-"the situation in Turkey is tense"-but he believed that it ultimately would. "I believe in democracy and press freedom. I am determined to pursue the struggle."