News / Europe

CPJ: Turkey is Leading Jailer of Journalists

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists says Turkey -- long seen as a model of democracy in the Middle East -- is the world's leading jailer of journalists.

A report released Monday says Turkey currently has 76 journalists behind bars. CPJ says it has confirmed that at least 61 of them are detained in direct connection with their work.

Turkey's total puts it ahead of Iran, Eritrea, and China -- three countries more well known for curbing media freedom.

“Turkey has a legal problem,” said Nina Ognianova, an analyst with CPJ. “According to local groups, at the end of last year, 2011, there had been between 3,000 and 5,000 pending cases - criminal cases - against journalists on a variety of charges that stretch from insulting ‘Turkishness’ to trying to influence the outcome of a trial.”

Ognianova said the prosecutions, as well as imprisonment of journalists, are possible because of vaguely written Turkish laws against terrorism that can be misused by authorities.

Last week the European Union strongly criticized Turkey  in its annual report on the progress of prospective EU members. The EU said "increasing concerns" about court cases against reporters endanger Turkey's bid for membership.

The rights group International Federation of Journalists, which also tracks the number of journalists in Turkish prisons, says writers are detained mainly because they cover issues deemed by the government to be controversial.

The Turkish government says the journalists are being held for crimes such as supporting conspiracies against the government or “aiding terrorists” by publishing detailed articles on national security issues, such as the Kurdish insurgency.

Government Demands

Last month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded that Turkish media stop covering Kurdish issues, saying coverage of the Kurdish separatist movement turns the media into a platform for separatist propaganda.

Ahmet Şik is a freelance journalist who spent 13 months in prison with a colleague for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.

After intense international pressure on Ankara to free them, the two men were released in April, although they still face charges. Şik said he and his colleague were jailed because the topics they covered embarrassed the government.

But Şik said detention is not the only method the government uses to curb journalists. Some reporters have been fired, demoted, or subjected to public embarrassment.

“By illegal means, either by sex tapes or phone tapping recordings, they are undermined, made victims of a smearing,” Şik told VOA.

Şik suspects he was detained because of a book he was writing on police corruption.

Şik’s colleague, Nedim Şener, wrote two books detailing the 2007 assassination of a prominent journalist, Hrant Dink.

Şener said his phones were tapped after he published a book in 2009 accusing the government of involvement in the Dink murder. He told VOA in July that the official reason for his arrest is a trumped up conspiracy charge.

“The stories I covered disturbed the state,” he said.

State Pressure

The state pressure also extends to media conglomerates.

The Dogan Media Group, which owns print, online, and broadcast outlets, including CNN Turk and TNT, has been criticized by Mr. Erdogan for publishing stories critical of the government.

At two political rallies in February 2009, Mr. Erdogan called on the public to boycott Dogan newspapers, saying they carried “incorrect news.”

Days later, the Dogan Group was slapped with a crippling tax fine of more than $3 billion, forcing the company to sell off many of its assets in an attempt to stay afloat.

A representative for Dogan told VOA in an e-mail that the tax fine issue has been resolved but added: “We don’t want to talk about it.”

Turkish leaders defend the government's actions against the press.

Questioned by CNN in September, Mr. Erdogan said he welcomes criticism, but added he will not tolerate insults toward himself or his family. He said he filed defamation lawsuits against some of his critics but later withdrew them.

US Dilemma

The U.S. treads a fine line in dealing with its ally, Turkey, on media freedom issues.

The U.S. ambassador, Frances Ricciardone, told VOA’s Turkish service that media freedom “remains a mixed picture” in Turkey. He said the number of journalists in jail creates a “chilling effect” that calls the state of freedom of expression into question.

Meanwhile, those pressing for more media freedom in Turkey say international pressure is keeping the government from further crackdowns on journalists.

Sik and Sener said their release was triggered by popular support. Sik told VOA that he has “close witnesses” who say Mr. Erdogan issued a special order for their release.

The Turkish government did not respond to requests for comment.

Still, many of Sik and Sener’s colleagues remain detained.

Sik has a fresh indictment issued against him for "threatening and defaming civil servants in their duties."

The Turkish government says Sik's public comments, made as he emerged from prison, contain allegations that could tarnish the honor of the officials he criticized.

Like other Turkish journalists under fire, he appears to have another long legal battle ahead of him.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs