CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Nina Ognianova

Nina Ognianova is coordinator of CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia Program. A native of Bulgaria, Ognianova has led CPJ advocacy missions to Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan.

Inside the offices of Dozhd TV channel in early February. The channel has been dropped from cable and satellite providers. (AFP/Vasily Maximov)

Late last month, as thousands of international journalists prepared to descend on Sochi to cover the Winter Olympics, the Kremlin resorted to using a controversy to silence a critical television station. A direct move to shut down the station would have been too blunt--particularly at a time when all eyes were on Russia--so authorities resorted to exploiting a producer's blunder, blowing it out of proportion, and pushing a third party to do their bidding. This is what happened.

The Committee to Protect Journalists this week joined a campaign spearheaded by Human Rights Watch and Uzbek human rights defenders urging Czech President Milos Zeman to cancel Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov's visit to Prague. Zeman had invited Karimov to visit this month despite the Central Asian leader's notorious intolerance to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and Uzbekistan's abysmal human rights record, which includes the Andijan massacre of May 2005.

A man holds a flag outside a Turkish jail, where hundreds of people, including journalists, await a verdict in the Ergenekon trial. (AP)

For the second year in a row, our prison census shows, Turkey jailed more journalists than any other country. The number of journalists behind bars is 40; down from the 61 reporters in October 2012, and less than the 49 we recorded on December 1, 2012. Still, Turkey holds more journalists in custody than Iran, China, or Eritrea.

Protesters clash with riot police during a protest in Sofia in July. (AP/Georgi Kozhuharov)

This summer, for good reason, the world's attention was focused on Turkey. Anti-government protests over plans to destroy a park in downtown Istanbul attracted global attention. Ankara's strategic importance in Syria and the Middle East, as well as being a member of NATO, makes what happens in Turkey important.

The Committee to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Watch have jointly called on the six presidential candidates of the International Olympics Committee to ensure that future host countries of the Olympic Games fully comply with human rights principles enshrined in the Olympic Charter, including press freedom and non-discrimination.

When President Obama meets with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyp Erdoğan today, he needs to deliver the message that Turkey's failure to improve its record on press freedom is eroding the country's strategic relationship with the United States and sabotaging its regional leadership ambitions, CPJ's executive director, Joel Simon, and Reporters Without Borders' director general, Christophe Deloire, write in an opinion piece in Foreign Policy.

In advance of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to Moscow this week, Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Committee to Protect Journalists sent him a letter to call attention to the ongoing crackdown in Russia on non-governmental organizations--including those that support press freedom and freedom of expression. 

Under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government, Turkey has been one of the world's top jailer of journalists. (AFP/Burhan Ozbilici)

For the past several months, CPJ staff has been researching pervasive press freedom problems in Turkey, including the criminal prosecution of journalists, the use of governmental pressure to engender self-censorship, and the presence of a repressive legal structure. This month, CPJ will release an in-depth report on Turkey's press freedom crisis. In advance of our report, we are publishing this illuminating interview with Yavuz Baydar, ombudsman for the Turkish newspaper Sabah and columnist for Today's Zaman. The interview was conducted via email.

Nedim Sener (AFP)

For the past several months, CPJ staff has been investigating pervasive press freedom problems in Turkey, including the widespread jailing of journalists. This month, CPJ will release an in-depth report on press conditions in Turkey. In advance of our report, we are publishing this interview with Nedim Șener, an investigative reporter who was jailed for more than a year in 2011-12. The interview was conducted via email and translated from the original Turkish.

A security guard at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, right, runs toward Pussy Riot supporters holding Cyrillic letters reading 'Blessed are the Merciful' in Moscow on Aug. 15. (AP/Novaya Gazeta, Yevgeny Feldman)

Record-high temperatures swept most of Europe this summer, but in Moscow the weather, much like the political climate, was chilly. I spent three months in the capital at the invitation of the Russian Union of Journalists, and witnessed how Vladimir Putin's third term in office kicked off with the passage of restrictive laws, harassment and prosecution of dissent, the jailing of an irreverent punk-rock band, and death threats by a top-ranking official against a prominent editor. 

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