At a time when Turkey ranks the first among a list of countries with the highest number of jailed journalists, Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the journalists in the country’s prisons are all “thieves, child abusers or terrorists.”
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has increasingly tightened its grip over journalists and media outlets since a failed coup on July 15 that killed 240 people and injured a thousand more. According to a report published on Jan. 26 by new advocacy group the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), 191 journalists are in jail, 92 are wanted and 839 have been charged in Turkey. Other sources put the number of jailed journalists at 149.
Speaking at one of his regular meetings with muhtars [neighborhood heads] at the presidential palace in Ankara on Wednesday, Erdoğan said: “I say, ‘give me the list of the jailed journalists.’ I look at the list and see that all of them are thieves, child abusers or terrorists. Recently, a 149-person list [of jailed journalists] came. When you look at the crimes they committed, they include bringing bomb mechanism from northern Iraq to Turkey, another one’s crime is to carry out an armed attack on a police vehicle. Another one was arrested with explosives. There are many from bank robbers to those setting election offices on fire among them. While 144 of them were jailed on terror charges, four of them were jailed for committing petty crimes.”
Turkey’s jailed journalists include prominent figures such as Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan, Nazlı Ilıcak, Şahin Alpay and Ahmet Turan Alkan who are known for their support to the democratic development of Turkey.
In his speech, Erdoğan also talked about the case of Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel who was detained in Turkey on Feb. 14 as part of an investigation for publishing stories on the leaked emails of President Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak and was arrested by a court on Feb.27.
Yücel is a reporter for the German daily Die Welt.
Erdoğan repeated his earlier claim that Yücel is not actually a journalist but an agent and terrorist.
“The German chancellor came here and wanted him [Yücel] from he. I told her, ‘the judiciary is independent.’ I have her the dossiers of 4,500 terrorists. She said, ‘the judiciary is reviewing them.’ I told her, ‘ the judiciary is also reviewing here [the case of Yücel], we can’t interfere in it,’” Erdoğan said.
As of March 1, 2017, SCF has confirmed that 200 journalists and media workers are behind bars in Turkey, a world record by any measure. Of these journalists, 179 are arrested pending trial and without a conviction. Most of the journalists do not even know what the charges are or what evidence, if any, the government has because the indictments were not filed yet.
The Turkish government is apparently using arbitrary arrests as part of intimidation campaign to suppress critical coverage, muzzle independent media and silence journalists. Only 21 journalists who are in jail were convicted while the rest are in abusive and long pre-trial detentions. Moreover, sweeping detention warrants have been issued for 92 journalists who are forced to live in exile abroad or remain at large in Turkey. (SCF with turkishminute.com) March 22, 2017