"The European Commission expressed serious concern about developments in the area of rule of law and fundamental rights (in Turkey)." It is progress report season in Brussels. As every year in early October, the commissioner in charge of enlargement unveils documents that judge the progress of all candidate countries in adopting European Union (EU) laws and standards, and Turkey is at the forefront.
Reuters editor-at-large Harry Evans had a question for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: Would he be willing to meet with a delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Press Institute (IPI) when it visited Turkey?
Four years ago, when CPJ launched its Internet Advocacy program, we were met with lots of encouragement, but also some skepticism.
"Why do you need a program to defend the Internet?" one supporter asked. "You don't have a special program to defend television, or radio, or newspapers."
But the Internet is different. Increasingly, when it comes to global news and information the Internet is not a platform. It is the platform.
In less than a week, Turkish voters will cast their ballots in local elections widely seen as a test of support for embattled Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has faced growing questions about official corruption since a high-level probe first became public in December. Although many observers believe Erdoğan will survive the current political crisis , the prime minister's increasingly autocratic posturing has given rise to questions about his long-term political viability.
The Turkish parliament is on the verge of voting on radical censorship measures that, if approved, would allow the government to block individual URLs without prior judicial review, mandate Internet data retention for periods of up to two years, and consolidate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) into a single association, among other changes. If passed, the amendments to Turkey's already restrictive Internet law would compound a dismal record on press freedom in the country, which is the leading jailer of journalists worldwide. Unsurprisingly, the proposed amendments are causing outrage among free expression activists and journalists in Turkey and around the world.
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.
Turkey is hardly a press freedom paradise, but what makes the country so exciting for journalists is the amount of news it generates on any given day. The domestic story is huge, with near-daily street protests, the booming economy beginning to sag, and the prospect of regional conflict looming with Syria. And Istanbul is a base for the international press covering not only Turkey but also Syria, Iraq and Egypt.
From São Paulo to Istanbul to Cairo, coverage of street demonstrations has re-emerged as an exceptionally dangerous assignment for journalists. Since June 1, CPJ has documented more than 120 attacks on the press amid the civil unrest in Brazil, Turkey, and Egypt--the biggest surge of attacks in such circumstances since the uprisings that swept the Arab world in 2011. My colleague Özgür Öğret described the danger in Turkish streets last week, and CPJ issued several alerts on assaults on the press in Brazil. The massive protests in Egypt have already resulted in more than three dozen anti-press attacks, including one fatality, and bring to mind the record-setting violence of two years ago.
It all changed so swiftly. The demand and price of gas masks, protective eyewear, and helmets rocketed in Istanbul. Not only protestors, but journalists, too, contributed to the rush. Hardware store clerks were quick studies, explaining to journalists which masks offer you a better line of sight when taking pictures, and describing the problem of speaking through a mask when broadcasting live. Of course, the gear only works when it is worn, not after police confiscate the equipment.
Sign up for emailed alerts and newsletters to track global developments in press freedom. Be notified whenever journalists are attacked, imprisoned, killed, kidnapped, threatened, censored, or harassed. Or get a monthly newsletter to keep up with CPJ’s efforts to defend journalists around the globe.