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Turkey

2012


Journalists call for freedom of the press in a 2011 rally in Ankara. (AFP/Adem Altan)

Turkey has no business being the world's leading jailer of journalists. But the numbers don't lie. With 49 journalists imprisoned for their work, according to CPJ's annual worldwide prison census, released today, Turkey holds more individuals behind bars than Iran (45), China (32), or Eritrea (28). How did Turkey find itself in this situation? Unlike the other countries that top CPJ's imprisoned list, Turkey has a relatively open and vibrant media. It is an emerging democracy, a NATO member, and a candidate for European Union integration.

Protesters mark the fifth anniversary of the killing of Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink in Istanbul January 19, 2012. (Reuters/Osman Orsal)

More reporters are jailed in Turkey than in any other country in the world. According to CPJ's recent survey, at least 61 are imprisoned directly for their work, representing the second biggest media crackdown in the 27 years we have been documenting such records. (Only Turkey itself has rivaled the extent of this crackdown, when it jailed 78 journalists in 1996.) In the country hailed as the model moderate Islamic republic, how is this possible?

Dozens of journalists for leftist Turkish newspaper Tutuklu Gazete have been jailed. The paper's headline reads, 'Resistance Against Censorship.' (Reuters)

Last week's release of CPJ's report on Turkey's press freedom crisis generated widespread domestic media coverage and sparked a robust public debate. The response from Turkish journalists and commentators was largely positive, but there were some negative reactions as well. Turkey's Justice Ministry has promised a detailed response this week. Here is a summary of the criticism we received during several days of intensive media interviews, along with our responses.

A passer-by looks at Turkish newspapers at a kiosk in Istanbul. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

This week I joined CPJ board Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe, Executive Director Joel Simon, and Turkish researcher Özgür Ögret in Istanbul to present CPJ's latest report, "Turkey's Press Freedom Crisis," and convey our main press freedom concerns, including the mass imprisonment of journalists.

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.

Journalists and activists call for press freedom in Ankara on March 19, 2011, after the arrest of 10 journalists as part of investigations into the alleged Ergenekon plot. (Reuters/Umit Bektas)

In Istanbul, the trial of several suspects in the case of Odatv, an ultranationalist website harshly critical of the government, continues to great consternation. When the case began in early 2011, a dozen journalists were charged, 10 of whom were incarcerated. The prosecution said Odatv staffers, along with prominent investigative reporters Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, were involved in the alleged Ergenekon plot--a supposed large-scale conspiracy to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan instructed the country's journalists not to cover soldiers' deaths or other news related to the conflict with Kurd separatists. (AP)

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey is known to lash out publicly at journalists of whose coverage he disapproves. He has called on media owners and editors to discipline reporters and columnists critical of his policies, particularly when it comes to the sensitive Kurdish issue. In more than a few cases, to avoid trouble, newsroom managers have listened and dismissed the staffers in question.

 Isik Yurtçu

The Committee to Protect Journalists is saddened by the death of Isik Yurtçu, who died Saturday in Istanbul of cancer at the age of 67.

In July of 1997, a bus full of international and Turkish journalists pulled up to the plain iron gate of Sakarya Prison east of Istanbul. Cameras rolling, representatives of CPJ, the International Press Institute, Reporters Sans Frontieres and Turkey's Press Council and Union of Newspaper Editors pressed toward the startled guard who swung the gate open just a foot or two and peered out.

CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington on Wednesday, highlighting global attacks on press freedom and, in particular, assaults on the press in Honduras, Russia, and Turkey.

Judges hear a case in the European Court of Human Rights. More than 60,000 people sought the court's help in 2011. (AFP/Frederick Florin)

The European Court of Human Rights is a victim of its success. In 2011, more than 60,000 people sought its help after exhausting all judicial remedies before national courts. But now, some member states of the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe are pushing for reforms of the prestigious institution and are pointing at the number of cases to make their argument. Instead of enhancing the court's capacity to deal with the backlog of cases, their moves would clip the court's prerogatives and undermine a citizen's capacity to defend his most fundamental rights.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz shakes hands with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, right, during an EU leaders' summit in Brussels Thursday.(Reuters/Francois Lenoir)

The state of press freedom inside the European Union has a significant effect on press freedom outside the EU. That was the message that CPJ Senior European Adviser Jean-Paul Marthoz and I delivered this week when Brussels' leading think tank, the European Policy Center (EPC), hosted us for a policy dialogue marking the launch of our annual survey, Attacks on the Press.

Last week, suspected supporters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an armed group listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, took their confrontation with the Turkish state to Western Europe, attacking the French and German offices of one of Turkey's most influential newspapers, Zaman.

French satellite provider Eutelsat announced yesterday it is suspending Kurdish satellite station Roj TV after a Danish court last week levied a hefty fine against the satellite station for promoting terrorism. Eutelsat's decision comes despite Roj TV's appeal before the Danish High Court, which is pending. The case has implications for how media content is evaluated, the rights of minority media, and how terrorism laws are balanced with human rights.

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Killed in Turkey

21 journalists killed since 1992

18 journalists murdered

14 murdered with impunity

Attacks on the Press 2012

49 Imprisoned on December 1, making Turkey the world's worst jailer of the press.

Country data, analysis »

Contact

Europe and Central Asia

Program Coordinator:
Nina Ognianova

Research Associate:
Muzaffar Suleymanov

nognianova@cpj.org
msuleymanov@cpj.org

Tel: 212-465-1004
ext 106, 101
Fax: 212-465-9568

330 7th Avenue, 11th Floor
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Blog: Nina Ognianova
Blog: Muzaffar Suleymanov