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Turkey: “The world’s biggest prison for professional journalists”

Tuesday, December 13, 2016  | 

The number of journalists detained, held hostage, or missing worldwide is rising dramatically. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more journalists are jailed around the world now than at any time since the group began keeping detailed records in 1990. Both the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) point to Erdogan’s Turkey as one of the main culprits. Since the failed coup in July Erdogan’s crackdown on free speech has taken on new dimensions as he silences critics on his march to consolidate power.

Turkey’s assault on free speech is not new. Authorities have harassed, arrested, and expelled journalists, and shut down or assumed control over news outlets prior to the failed coup attempt. Since Erdogan first took over as prime minister in 2003, he launched more than 2,000 prosecutions of people who offended or insulted him, and routinely shut down Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets. Turkey’s deteriorating climate for free speech took a turn for the worse following July’s coup attempt and Erdogan’s purge as the pace of arrests exploded. In addition to imprisoning journalists, Erdogan also shut down some 150 news outlets.

Reporters Without Borders’ assessment on journalists who are detained, held hostage, or missing in 2016 puts the number of journalists detained in Turkey at around 100.

Map turkey journalists

According to the report:

The witch-hunt launched after July’s abortive coup d’état has turned Turkey into the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists, as it already was in 2012 and 2013.

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire also slammed Erdogan and the EU, saying:

At the gateway to Europe, an all-out witch-hunt has jailed dozens of journalists…In the space of a year, the Erdogan regime has crushed all media pluralism while the European Union has said virtually nothing.

As Erdogan stamps out dissent, Turkish parliament is moving to debate a controversial bill that would fundamentally change Turkish democracy, concentrating power in the hands of the presidency. Erdogan has ruled by decree since July, and this bill could potentially see an increasingly authoritarian Erdogan sit on Ankara’s throne with enhanced powers until 2029. This will not only spell the end of democratic dialogue within Turkey, but, as Erdogan has clearly demonstrated, his belief that he is above the rule of law poses a threat to regional security and stability. What the region needs is a Turkey that upholds and respects international law, democratic principles and institutions, and constructively contributes toward regional peace and stability.

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