Turkey: the death of journalism
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Turkey has earned an accolade which holds no glory: according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, it is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world.
Globally, one third of all imprisoned journalists, media workers and executives are in Turkey’s prisons, with the vast majority among them waiting to be brought to trial.
Some have been languishing in prison for months. An ongoing state of emergency was declared in July, following a violent coup attempt, blamed by the President and the government on those loyal to the cleric Fethullah Gülen. Journalists have been targeted in an unprecedented crackdown on all strands of opposition media.
Coupled with the closure of more than 160 media outlets, the message - and the resulting effect on press freedom - is clear and disturbing: the space for dissent is ever-shrinking and speaking out comes at an immeasurable cost.
Fear is Chilling
The erosion of media freedom is not new in Turkey. In 2013 when huge Gezi Park protests erupted in Istanbul, a prominent news channel was broadcasting a nature documentary about penguins rather than covering the protests. Journalists lost their jobs for displeasing the authorities. Critical media outlets were taken over and their editorial line changed to a more compliant one.
With more than 120 journalists and other media workers imprisoned, and thousands more unemployed following the closure of over 160 media outlets, the effect of the latest wave of erosion of media freedom is clear: independent journalism in Turkey is at the edge of the precipice. The fear of imprisonment for criticizing the authorities is palpable: newspaper columns and current affairs discussion programs, very popular in Turkey, contain little vocal dissent nor strongly diverse views.
Further Background on human rights in Turkey
An attempted coup in July 2016 prompted a massive government crackdown on civil servants and civil society. Those accused of links to the Fethullah Gülen movement were the main target. Over 40,000 people were remanded in pre-trial detention during six months of emergency rule. There was evidence of torture of detainees in the wake of the coup attempt. Nearly 90,000 civil servants were dismissed; hundreds of media outlets and NGOs were closed down and journalists, activists and MPs were detained. Violations of human rights by security forces continued with impunity, especially in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of the country, where urban populations were held under 24-hour curfew. Up to half a million people were displaced in the country. The EU and Turkey agreed a “migration deal” to prevent irregular migration to the EU; this led to the return of hundreds of refugees and asylum-seekers and less criticism by EU bodies of Turkey’s human rights record.
Turkey: UN findings of mass displacement of Kurds confirm Amnesty International research (10 March 2017)
Turkey: Curfews and crackdown force hundreds of thousands of Kurds from their homes (6 December 2016)
Turkey: Latest detention of journalists a “blatant misuse of powers” (31 October 2016)
Joint Statement: State of emergency provisions in Turkey violate human rights and should be revoked (19 October 2016)