Istanbul, February 11, 2013--The release of at least seven journalists and media workers from pretrial detention is a positive step toward restoring the press freedom climate in Turkey, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
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.
The Committee to Protect Journalists prepared this report to highlight the widespread criminal prosecution and jailing of journalists in Turkey, along with the government’s use of various forms of pressure to engender self-censorship in the press. CPJ’s analysis found highly repressive laws, particularly in the penal code and anti-terror law; a criminal procedure code that greatly favors the state; and a harsh anti-press tone set at the highest levels of government. Turkey’s press freedom situation has reached a crisis point.
Nuray Mert, one of Turkey’s most prominent political columnists and commentators, had a long history as a government critic, but in the view of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, her comments last year opposing administration policies toward ethnic Kurds went too far. Erdoğan lashed out with a personal attack that implied Mert was traitorous, setting off a torrent of public vitriol—including threats to her safety—and prompting her politically sensitive bosses to cancel her television show and newspaper column.
The indictments of staffers of the Dicle News Agency are filled with the workaday details of a wire-service journalist: An editor fields tips about pro-Kurdish demonstrations; a reporter covers the story of a youth who set himself on fire as a political protest; another tries to track down a possible police crackdown against a Kurdish political party. But as conveyed in the government’s charge sheet, each detail is fraught with impropriety: The tips should have been passed along to the authorities; covering the youth’s protest was an act of propaganda; pursuing the crackdown story was intended to humiliate the government.
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