News / Europe

Ankara Under Fire for Journalists' Treatment

A ferry sail in the Bosporus transports people from Istanbul's Asian side to the European side, Turkey, November 2011.
A ferry sail in the Bosporus transports people from Istanbul's Asian side to the European side, Turkey, November 2011.
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 said.

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 says 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 Erdogan for publishing stories critical of the government.

At two political rallies in February 2009, 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 wrote 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, 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 said 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 said that he has “close witnesses” who say 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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sanjay Gupta from: India
October 12, 2012 1:26 PM
I can't believe how many people told the Turkies in the comments here that NATO will not help them... and, that the Europeans and Russians actually hate and despise them... I read this article in this light... some of the people who make comments here are really really good - thank you

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid