Ankara, September 17, 2013–Heated anti-press rhetoric, the firing of leading journalists, threats to restrict online speech, and a series of physical and legal assaults further damaged the press freedom environment in Turkey in the months following the Gezi Park protests that began last May. In a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on the government to take specific action to address the crisis.
The CPJ letter was delivered yesterday to Kenan Özdemir, deputy undersecretary in the Ministry of Justice, who met with a delegation from CPJ to discuss the organization’s concern. The delegation consisted of CPJ Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe, board member John Carroll, Executive Director Joel Simon, and Turkey correspondent Özgür Öğret.
The CPJ letter called on the Turkish government to take specific steps to address the press freedom crisis, including releasing immediately all imprisoned journalists held in pre-trial detention; halting the criminal prosecution of journalists; abandoning the aggressive anti-press rhetoric emanating from senior officials; and ending the pressure on media owners to rein in or fire critical journalists.
“Turkey has demonstrated impressive economic growth in recent years, and its strategic role in the region and among world democracies is clear,” said CPJ Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe. “But Turkey’s potential and the respect it is due are deeply compromised by its attempts to silence opposing voices in the media.”
The delegation also discussed CPJ’s upcoming annual census of journalists imprisoned around the world, which will be released in December. Last year, Turkey topped the list with 49 journalists in prison, followed by Iran. In Monday’s meeting, the Justice Ministry committed to provide CPJ with information about the cases the organization is investigating for the 2013 prison census. CPJ welcomes the opportunity to gather the most complete possible information, Rowe said.
The meeting also included discussions of CPJ’s efforts in Egypt and Syria to defend Turkish journalists under threat.
CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide
Note to editors: CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, who was part of the CPJ delegation, is available for interviews in Istanbul, Tuesday, September 17. The letter to Prime Minister Erdoğan is available in English and Turkish.
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