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

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    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.
    Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United Statesi
    X
    July 28, 2016 2:16 AM
    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora