33 Swedish media groups call on Erdoğan to free jailed journalists

The editors-chief of 33 media organizations in Sweden sent an open letter to Turkey’s autocratic President Tayyip Erdoğan on the anniversary of a failed coup attempt on July, 15, 2016, asking him to free jailed journalists.

According to a Evrensel daily report on Saturday, the editor-in-chiefs from various Swedish media organizations, including the widely circulated Aftonbladet, Expressen, Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet newspapers, expressed their concern over press freedom and human rights violations in Turkey.

“Exactly one year ago a coup attempt took place in Turkey, which is a European Union member candidate. Even though the coup attempt was of a military nature, a witch hunt was started against those thinking differently and not sharing your world-view. Thousands of people who thought differently were accused of being a traitor, spy and putschist,” they said.

The letter said that persecutions by the Turkish government targeted mainly journalists and intellectuals, making Turkey the biggest jailer of journalists in the world.

Two state decrees led to the closure of 500 Turkish and Kurdish media outlets and the seizure of their properties, said the media chiefs in the letter.

Şahin Alpay

Reminding that the journalist Şahin Alpay, who is one of 177 jailed journalists in Turkey, has always been against the interference of the military in politics, the editors said freedom of the press and expression was no longer functioning in Turkey.

Alpay, who requested asylum in Sweden in the aftermath of a coup attempt in 1971, is accused of planning and participating in the military coup attempt last year. Three life sentences are being sought for Alpay.

Asking Erdoğan to return the properties of media organizations and move the barriers before press freedom, the letter said: “95 percent of the media is under the control of your regime. The situation of our colleagues is worrisome.”

Meanwhile, the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC), which has been giving the Press Freedom Prize since 1989 on July 24, Press Freedom Day, has announced that they are not going to bestow the award this year. The TGC said the current media conditions in Turkey changed their minds about giving awards this year.

“Taking into consideration the condition our country and media are in, a consensus has been reached to freeze the presentation of the Press Freedom Prize, which has been given since 1989, and the memorial plaques to association members who received permanent press cards, and to re-introduce the prizes when conditions allow,” the TGC said in a statement. The TGC is going to hold a meeting on July 21 to celebrate Press Freedom Day.

President Erdoğan recently said on a BBC program that no one was jailed in Turkey because of journalism, upon being reminded by a BBC reporter that 160 media outlets were closed down and 2,500 journalists or media workers were sacked from their jobs in Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup on July 15, 2016. Erdoğan claimed that jailed journalists were affiliated with terrorist organizations and that some were arrested because they were involved in robbery.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 265 journalists are now in jails as of July 15, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 240 are arrested pending trial, only 25 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 105 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. (SCF with turkishminute.com) July 16, 2017

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