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

Amnesty: EU Failing Migrants, Refugees

Rights group says migrants, refugees subject to detention, extortion, beatings More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs