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Detained journalists urge EU not to compromise with Turkey over human rights

A woman walks past a banner that reads, "Even you arrest (journalists) or censor (media) we know that you are a war criminal Tayyip" and with a picture of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a protest over the arrest of journalists Can Dundar and Erdem Gul in Ankara, Turkey, November 27, 2015. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ANKARA (Reuters) - Two Turkish journalists arrested this week over their reports about arms supplies to Syria urged the European Union not to compromise on human rights and freedoms as it seeks an agreement with Turkey to help stem flows of migrants to Europe.

European diplomats have been measured in their criticism of media freedom in Turkey and President Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule, recognising the West needs Ankara’s help on the migrant crisis and as an ally in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State.

European and Turkish officials hope EU leaders and Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will sign a deal to ease the migrant crisis on Sunday.

Writing from Silivri prison near Istanbul, Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, which is left-wing, secular and often critical of the government, and senior editor Erdem Gul said in a letter to EU leaders they hope Sunday’s meeting results in a lasting solution, adding:

“We would also like to hope that your desire to end the crisis will not stand in the way of your sensitivity towards human rights, freedom of press and expression as fundamental values of the Western world.”

The two also wrote to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a spokesman for the German government confirmed.

A court on Thursday ordered the arrest of the two journalists over the publication of footage purporting to show the state intelligence agency helping send weapons to Syria.

The U.S. embassy criticised the arrests and the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner Nils Muiznieks described them as “another blow to media freedom in Turkey”.

Reporting by Gulsen Solaker; additional reporting by Matthias Sobolewski in Berlin; Writing by Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by Dominic Evans