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Amnesty International: One Third of All Imprisoned Journalists Are in Turkey


FILE - Journalists Can Dundar, right, and Erdem Gul, Ankara bureau chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, speak before the start of their trial, hours before the attack on Can Dundar outside city's main courthouse in Istanbul, May 6, 2016.

Amnesty International has called on the Turkish government to stop its crackdown on the media and release imprisoned journalists in the country.

“Turkey now jails more journalists than any other country. One third of all imprisoned journalists in the world are being held in Turkish prisons,” said a statement by the human rights advocacy group.

“This crackdown must end. Journalists must be allowed to do their jobs, because journalism is not a crime,” the statement added.

In the wake of last year’s failed coup attempt, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has responded with a rigorous crackdown on those who were deemed involved. In the process, tens of thousands of teachers and civil servants were fired.

Besides many military officers, journalists and activists have also been imprisoned.

The Turkish government has been defensive of its actions, but many in the international community accuse it of using the military coup attempt as a tool to target opponents and suppress human rights in the country.

Earlier this month, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner addressed the issue.

“We urge Turkey to respect and ensure freedom of expression, fair trail guarantees, judicial independence and other essential freedoms. We also firmly believe in freedom of expression and that any freedom of expression, including for speech and the media – and that includes also speech that some may find controversial or uncomfortable – only strengthens a democracy and it needs to be protected," Toner said.

Despite continued criticism from the international community, Turkey continues to target journalists.

Utku Cakirozer, a Turkish Parliament member from the Republican People's Party, told VOA that as a result of the government’s crackdown on journalists, 90 percent of the media is now under government control.

“All international reports are saying that Turkey is the worst country in the area of press freedom, Cakirozer said. “Many journalists have no jobs. There is a climate of fear in Turkey.”

Cakirozer added there are 153 journalists held in Turkish prisons.

Nina Ognianova, program coordinator for Europe and Central Asia for the Committee to Protect Journalists, expressed concerns over the situation of press freedom in Turkey.

“Turkey’s international partners must press the country’s leaders on the issue of press freedom and freedom of expression as a matter of urgency,” she said.

Ognianova added that if the crackdown continued, Turkey would soon lose its independent media.

“Turkey’s crackdown on the press threatens to destroy any remnants of critical independent media in the country to devastating effects not only for Turkey, but also for Turkey’s international partners,” Ognianova said.

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