Several tallies, one conclusion on Turkish press freedom

By Mohamed Abdel Dayem/CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator on December 8, 2011 4:13 PM ET

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.

We recognize that governments--in Turkey and elsewhere--often resort to charging journalists with crimes that are seemingly unrelated to their work but are actually intended to silence critical voices. In fact, CPJ's global census found that antistate charges were the most common allegation used to jail journalists in 2011. In conducting our research, we traveled to Turkey on a fact-finding mission, interviewed journalists and press freedom defenders, and enlisted the help of a Turkish-speaking researcher. In those cases where we conclude from our research that a government is using fabricated or retaliatory charges to silence critical reporters, we include those journalists in our tally. If we cannot determine that a journalist's work is the basis for his or her imprisonment, we do not include the journalist on the list, but continue to consider new information as it becomes available. Our research is ongoing, including into cases that have been flagged to us again today.

There are many groups, both internationally and in Turkey, interested in promoting free expression. Applying different methodology, and struggling to navigate the thicket of the murky judiciary, we arrive at divergent results in our quest to document infringements on the press. Reporters Without Borders, for instance, lists seven journalists as imprisoned in Turkey. The prominent local press freedom Organization BIA, in its latest quarterly tally, noted that "a total of 68 journalists were in prison, of which 11 are because of news stories, writing [and] speaking." Other groups have much higher numbers.

Yet all press freedom defenders following developments in Turkey have reached the same conclusion: The situation is alarming and is getting worse. After concluding a fact-finding mission to Turkey this year, CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney wrote that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party "have resorted to nationalist tactics by using vague defamation laws and sweeping anti-terrorism statutes to rein in not only traditional targets such as leftist and Kurdish journalists but also government critics in the mainstream media."


As if there was ever such a thing as 'press freedom' in Turkey.. Small piece of advice to the awakening Arab nations; look elsewhere! There is no nothing for you here.

There is neither press freedom nor freedom of speech in Turkey. The prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the Putin of Turkey.

First of all this report or the list or the census is misleading people with poor standards. It is a shame for CPJ to put it without cross checking the numbers. There is only one attribution and it is Bianet report. And the referral to Bianet is also misleading. Bianet never stated that there were only 11 as Mr. Muhammed Abdel Dayem stated. Let’s read from the original report:
The report says: According to the BIA Media Monitoring Report for the second quarter of 2011, 68 journalists went to jail till July, 12 of them because of their news, writings and utterances. Turkish courts decided for prison sentences of 44 years and 8 months in total in April, May and June.
If you continue to read the report it underlines and emphasizes: “68 journalists are in prisons due to pending trials, convictions and pre-trial detentions. A total of twelve people were put behind bars in July, among them ten journalists and two university students…”
Do I get it wrong or does the report says 12 more were put in prison in July? Whatever it is if you read the whole report which is the latest one, you don’t feel that things are so good as you report…
I would as a journalist expect more accuracy about the situation of journalists in Turkey. But I am really dissapointed when I read your census.
Did you used the same kind of high(!) standards to find out the number of imprisoned Iranian journalists? Then unfortunately we should multiply your number with eight when we take care of your assesment about Turkey?
Or is there a defamation agains US enemy Iran? And an innocent blindness to popular and favorable US ally Turkey?
I should note that even google and wikileaks journalists have higher standards than you have? They at least question and cross check their documents, however you don’t bother to ask a credible journalism institution in Turkey. There is Turkish Journalist’s Trade Union (TGS, or Turkish Journalists Union (TGC, that might provide you the list of journalists in prisons with allegations against them.
Or if you ever bothered to google it you might have reached sources like OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) reports on pres freedom in Turkey. Here is the link of the a report dated April 2011. (By the way a new one is on the way) They say 57 journalists are in jail in Turkey:
And this is the press release from their website:

Even the Justice Ministry accepted two month ago that there are 64 journalists in jail. But they say non is in jail for their journalism activities. So do you beleive to state officials all around the world on what they say about pres freedom including yours? Should we? Do you think are they stupid enough to accept and confess the truth? Or is it wiser way to put journalists in jail with having links to terrorists organisations? Are we wise enough to question what the governments say and what they do? Who decides on what is journalistic activity, judges? Prosecutors? Prime ministers? Justice ministers? Police reports? Who? Journalism Unions and journalists? Do we accept terrorist as journalists?
Ask yourself and cross check…
Check European Court of Human Rights records.

Council of Europe reports:

Check EU Human Rights Commisioner Thomas Hammanberg’s reports on Turkey

Oh by the way would you please inform us about the content of the link below which we cannot access from Turkey due to a court ruling from the specially designated Istanbul 11th High Criminal Court. Yes the article is banned due to supporting terrorism. There are over 15,000 internet sites banned in Turkey most without a court decision, for pornography charges. I am sure the writer of the article would have been put in jail if he or she was a Turkish journalist like +60 journalists.

Turkey is becoming a dark fear empire like the days in 1990's. Just recently offices of a small opposition newspaper have been raided fort he third time in a short period. The owner of the newspaper and the editor of the a television have been arrested.
No one is safe including me? Who knows what happens tomorrow in an effort to silence anyone who does not support the government and a religious group, whose spiritual leader lives in US.
So there are more than +60 journalists in jail in Turkey and it is a fact. And there is no excuse for this. And there is no excuse for poor standards of CPJ.
I would like to urge CPJ to correct her mistake and apologise from Iran for making them scapegoat in press freedom, draw back the census and list of imprisoned journalists and correct it. Otherwise you loose credibility by loosing your accuracy…
Best Regards

Mustafa Balbay is one of those 64 journalists held in prison. He has been in jail for over three years without any real charges, his imprisonment is unconstitutional since he was elected member of parliament when he nominated from prison at the last national elections.
Mustafa Balbay was working for the Cumhuriyet newspaper when he was arrested he had been a critic of the AKP and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Yes,there is a problem of press freedom in Turkey. But it is a freedom issue not solely "Press Freedom".
What should be relaized is that these journalists worked with those whohave been limiting freedoms in Turkey. I will never buy the idea that critical voices are being silenced.

Turkey is an arena where all intelligence organizations have interest and activities in. Hence it is very normal to have journalists too who are in bed with them. Balbay is one of them. What part of journalism justifies giving info to a foreing intelligence agency?

I hope thee goverment does soemthing quick to scape such excuses so that we see real picture.

Of course, there is the closed meeting Erdoğan held with the press back in October where they all agreed tow the official line in regard to 'terrorism'. The contents of this meeting was spilled by a journalist from Taraf and it basically amounts to self censorship. Then there are all the resignations from the Radikal over restrictions and ALSO the Radikal (a mostly liberal paper) was criticized for lack of press freedom because it printed the headline 'Killing babies in the SouthEast, in the Parliament in Ankara' suggesting that the BDP was responsible for the death of an infant. So journalists (as well as 7000 other activists) in prison is only the tip of the iceberg here....

It is a shame for CPJ to list only 8 jailed journalists in Turkey.

What CPJ does not understand is, Erdoğan's opressive regime keeps journalists in jails for years before even any charges are brought against them. Or they charge them but then prolong the arrest period for years by regularly adding "new evidence" to postpone and prolong the trial period.

If they can trick an organization which names itself "Committe to Protect Journalists" and indeed claims to protect the journalists, I am really worried.

You can not just say "tally does not really matter, what matters is conclusion". You are marginilizing the problem in Turkey.

Also the European Union comfortably buys the Erdoğan's oppressive regime's story that all these journalists have been prisoned "not for journalism but for other crimes like plot to overthrow the government".

We know in Turkey that Erdoğan can sustain his fascist rule with the help and consent of European Union. We will not forget this.

If you are really want to do something for journalists in Turkey:
a- Do not fall for the PR tricks of Erdoğan.
b- Campaign against European Union and European governments which support Erdoğan. They are the real source of oppression.

I can only support the brave comments from journalists above. The big problem is that you cannot even accuse the deep state of being the villain, as in the 90's. Today the state IS the Deep State.

CPJ should publish a full announcement, not a blog post, to admit that it was wrong about the Turkish figures, if they don't want to harm Turkish journalists.

Please read:

Who are those Kurdish journalists facing constant persecution? There are no Kurdish but a lot of Turkish journalists in jail today. And two of them among the 70+ arrested Turkish journalists, are the members of Turkish parliament from the main opposition party CHP. Have you ever checked Odatv which is the number one internet news channel in Turkey? 10 more Odatv journalists have been under arrest for more than 9 months without any evidence but because of fake e-mails. You must immediately review your 2011 list and republish it. Otherwise you'll certainly lose your reputation. It's up to you!

Thanks CPJ and Mr. Abdel Dayem for the report and the blog both are enlightening about problems of freedom of press in Turkey. There are still much to do in Turkey to enlarge freedom of press. But i have to underline that some comments written here by some collegues are full of hypocrisy. Unfortunatelly journalism has a very murkey and dirty past in Turkey. It is very well known in Turkey how media helped generals to rape democracy 5 times since 1960. Some of the journalist who today try to present themselves as hero of freedom of press has been collaborating with generals and writing headlines with the order of military. Last military intervention took place 4 years ago.
The more Turkey get democratized and freedoms prevails the more those journalist started to be unhappy with the new climate. Without keeping this dirty habbits of Turkish media in mind, it would be very missleading to evaluate every incident as freedom of press issue. Freedom of press is not freedom of raping democracy and not freedom of collaborating with terrorist organizations.

It is really ridicilous to see some people tyring to defend Mustafa Balbay as a symbol of press freedom in Turkey. I really wonder, is there any journalist who many times meets with generals and exhanges ideas and make plans to discredit and topple the democraticly elected government in the western democracies? Anyone wonders details can read ergenekon indicement which contains diary of Balbay and records of military about the meetings. What kind of journalism is this? It is really disgusting to defend this kind of murky guys as part of press freedom. For the current situation of press freedom see:

here i see crazy comments about CPJ report. The craziest thing is tryin to deceive world by claiming some nasty activities to be journalism. For example, one commentator mentions police raid to a daily, that is aydinlik, another one mentions odatv website as doing journalism. Both are fanatical attacking and smearing centers without respecting any simplest rule of journalism and without respecting any rights of people. Guys, if you claim aydinlik and oda tv are making journalism, it means that journalism is dead in Turkey. Sorry guys, noone buys this kind of cheap tricks trying to clean dirts by exploiting press freedom value.

According to the tally of the American Committee to Protect Journalists, there are only eight journalists in jail in Turkey. We, as members of the Freedom for Journalists Platform, comprised of 94 national and local media associations, would like to point out that this is a grave error, unless of course it is deliberate deception. We call on the CPJ to correct its mistake.

The incarceration of a single journalist in a country should be seen as an indication of a serious threat directed at the freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

An effort by an international media organization to manipulate numbers and thereby belittle the gravity of the situation in Turkey would cast a dark shadow on the universal struggle for freedom of the press.

We, as the Freedom of Journalists Platform of Turkey, condemn your report claiming that only eight journalists are in jail because of their professional activities.

Accepting your figure as the truth would mean agreeing with those who have charged the remaining 56 (in jail for long periods of time, even though the trials of many are yet to start) with terroristic activities. This would harm those journalists and influence the judicial process.

We, the Freedom For Journalists Platform, oppose anti-democratic policies which destroy the foundations of freedom of thought and expression in Turkey and strengthen the climate of censorship in the media. We fail to comprehend how the CPJ puts itself in the place of a criminal court.

There is one more thing we have failed to understand.

Why has the CPJ refused to use for Turkish journalists the criteria it used in declaring that 42 journalists are in jail in Iran?

We suggest the CPJ take a close look at the reports of the European Security and Cooperation Organization (OSCE) concerning the number of journalists in jail in Turkey.

If the freedom of the press is threatened in one country, the threat applies to all countries.

Our goal in issuing this statement is not only to correct a mistake, but also to send an invitation for greater solidarity among those struggling for press freedom.


Turkish Representative of Association of European Journalists

Europe and Turkish Journalists Association

International Press Institute (IPI) National Comittee

Press Council

Association of Contemporary Journalists

Association of Foreign Correspondense

PEN Turkish PEN Center

The Association of Education and Health Reporters

Association of Economy Journalists

Association of Economy Reporters

Association of Newspapers Owners

Association of the Journalists (Ankara)

The Association of the Journalists Foundation

The Union of the Press Broadcasting Comunication Postal Workers

The Association of Reserch of Communication

The Association of İzmir Journalists

The Association of Culture Tourism Environment Journalists

The Association of Parliament Reporters

The Association of the Professional News Cameramen

The Association of the Environment City Journalists

The Association of Turkish Photo Reporters

Turkish Journalists Association

Turkish Federation of Journalists

Turkish Journalists Union

Turkish Sport Reporters Association.

Turkish Publishers Union

Turkish Union of The Writers

The Ugur Mumcu Foundation of Investigative Reporting

Adıyaman Journalists Association, Afyonkarahisar Journalists Association, Aksaray Journalists and Writers Association, Alanya Journalists Association, Anadolu Sport Journalists Association, Antakya Journalists Association, Antalya Journalists Association, Artvin Journalists Association, Aydın Journalists Association, Balıkesir Journalists Association, Bartın Journalists Association, Batman Journalists and Publishers, Bayburt Journalists Association, Bolu Journalists Association, Burdur Journalists Association, Bursa Journalists Association, Reporters of Presidency and Priministry, Çanakkale Journalists Association, Çorum Journalists Association, Çukurova Journalists Association, Denizli Journalists Association, Doğu Anadolu Journalists Association, Düzce Journalists Association, Edirne Journalists Association, Eskişehir Journalists Association, Fırat Havzası Journalists Association, Gaziantep Journalists Association, Giresun Journalists Association, Güneydoğu Journalists Association, Isparta Journalists Association, İskenderun Journalists Association, Karabük Journalists Association, Karaelmas Journalists Association, Karaman Journalists Association, Kars Kuzeydoğu Journalists Association, Kastamonu Journalists Association, Kayseri Journalists Association; Kırıkkale Müstakil Journalists Association, Kırşehir Journalists Association, Kilis Journalists Association, Kocaeli Journalists Association, Konya Journalists Association, Kütahya Journalists Association, Malatya Journalists Association, Manisa Journalists Association, Mersin Journalists Association, Muğla Journalists Association, Nevşehir Journalists Association, Niğde Journalists Association, Ordu Journalists Association, Osmaniye Journalists Association, Radio and Television Journalists Association, Sakarya Journalists Association, Samsun 19 Mayıs Journalists Association, Sinop Journalists Association, Sivas Journalists Association, Şanlıurfa GAP Journalists Association, Tokat Journalists Association, Trabzon Journalists Association, Trakya Journalists Association, Tunceli Journalists Association, Turkish News Cameramen Association, Uşak Faal Journalists Association, Yalova Journalists Association, Yozgat Journalists Writers Association, Zonguldak Journalists Association

Freedom For Journalists Platform December 17, 2011 1:03:56 PM ET

Ergenekon and Balyoz trials in Turkey are nothing but a political tool used by the islamofascist AKP government to suppress opposition and turn Turkey into a fundamentalist islamic dictatorship.

Seeing the long and impressive list of journalism associations under the Freedom for Journalists Platform would be laughable if the situation were not so serious. Many of the same mainstream journalists now crying out foul not only sat on their hands, they stood with the government when Kurdish journalists were persecuted. Pointing fingers and making grandiose claims won't help fix today's distressing conditions. It is time for all journalists in Turkey to stand together to defend real journalists (not politicians cloaking themselves as the press) and defend journalists of all backgrounds (not just the ones they like).

Hunting of journalists has intensified in Turkey
This morning at least 25 journalists have been arrested in Turkey.
Two News agencies, a newspapers, a printing office and a magazine have been searched. Özgür Gündem paper and Dicle News Agency,Etik Agency, Gün Printing Office and Democratic Modernity magazine.
Read "Simultaneous raids targeting the Kurdish media - UPDATE" at the Firat News Agency:

Tjek også Twitter, fx #AJANSAMED and #AmedDcle!/AJANSAMED!/AmedDcle

CPJ, you ought to acknowledge the grave error you made when you reported there were only eight journalists in prison.

Freedom For Journalists Platform's post in this thread is very credible and you should revise your numbers.

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