Bianet

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The Gezi Park protests force some independent-minded journalists to confront the media's unwillingness to take on the government. By Nicole Pope

2. Assault on the Press

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. 

Sidebar: Letters From Prison

Here are excerpts from letters written by four journalists who have been imprisoned in Turkey. They were first published by the independent online news portal Bianet in January and February 2012.

As in dozens of other cases, prosecutors have charged these individuals with grave anti-state crimes. These first-person accounts provide a different kind of insight. In their own words, these journalists describe their backgrounds, explain their perspectives, and detail their treatment by the Turkish judicial system.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, buoyed by a landslide election victory, has led an attack on press freedom. (AP/Boris Grdanoski)

With the aid of anachronistic legislation and a rigid judiciary, Turkish officials and politicians have curbed free expression by subjecting journalists to endless court proceedings and legal costs. The EU and the U.S. are no help. By Robert Mahoney

>> Türkçe

Press freedom in Turkey is under assault. Thousands of criminal cases have been filed against reporters, the Criminal Code and Anti-Terrorism Act are used routinely to silence critical news coverage, and Kurdish journalists face constant persecution.

Today CPJ released its annual prison census, which tracks cases of journalists jailed for their work globally. (The list counts those who were incarcerated at midnight on December 1, 2011, but does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year.) Since 1990, when we first began compiling this census, Turkey has appeared regularly on the list; in the mid-1990s, it was the world's leading jailer of journalists. Some Turkish journalists have written us to inquire why CPJ's 2011 census lists eight imprisoned journalists in Turkey, while other organizations list as many as 64.

While there is a surfeit of media in Turkey, outlets are prey to government pressure. (Reuters)

Turkey is awash in media. The newsstands of Istanbul are buried under some 35 dailies of every format and political stripe. The airwaves are thick with TV channels and Internet penetration is tracking an economy growing at Chinese speed. Yet quantity does not equal quality. Nor does the array of titles mean diversity and freedom of expression is blossoming in a country that is seeking to join the European Union. 

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