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Turkey's Deputy Parliament Speaker Levent Gok (center) is seen in the Parliament in Ankara on April 7, 2020. The Turkish parliament is considering an amnesty bill that would release 90,000 prisoners, but not include journalists. (AFP/Adem Altan)

Turkey amnesty bill would release 90,000 prisoners, but no journalists

April 7, 2020 1:45 PM ET

New York, April 7, 2020 -- In response to the Turkish Parliament’s proposed bill that would release 90,000 prisoners to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but which would not free journalists held as political prisoners, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“It is unacceptable that Turkey aims to release about a third of its overcrowded prison population but leave journalists behind bars during a global pandemic,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “Turkish authorities must swiftly redraft their amnesty bill and ensure that journalists, who are held as political prisoners on false ‘terrorism’ charges, will be released.”

At least 47 journalists were behind bars for their work in Turkey as of CPJ’s December 1, 2019, prison census, all of whom were held for alleged “terrorism.” According to news reports, those charges are not included in the amnesty bill.

Last week, CPJ wrote an open letter to world leaders urging them to immediately release all journalists behind bars, as freedom has become a matter of life and death amid the coronavirus pandemic. Imprisoned journalists have no control over their surroundings, cannot choose to isolate, and are often denied necessary medical care.

[Editors' Note: This article has been updated to include a reference to CPJ's recent letter to world leaders.]