515 journalists prosecuted in Turkey in past 6 months: report

Photo (The Expression Interrupted Platform)

A total of 515 journalists faced prosecution in Turkey in the first six months of 2024, with 36 of them receiving prison sentences or substantial fines, Turkish Minute reported on Monday, citing the Birgün daily.

Zeynep Oduncu, an MP from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party), on Monday released statistics on the poor state of freedom of the press in Turkey over the last six months under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

According to the lawmaker, at least 515 journalists were prosecuted during the January-June 2024 period, with 36 either sentenced to prison or fined a total of TL 283,270 ($8,661).

Data provided by Oduncu further showed that 39 journalists were detained, 10 were arrested, 32 were assaulted and 116 faced threats, obstruction or ill-treatment in the same period. Meanwhile, courts blocked access to 3,747 news reports, and 32 news websites were shut down.

Commenting on the statistics, the lawmaker said the AKP government deems it justifiable to punish journalists for simply doing their job. She added that there are currently 41 journalists behind bars for that reason.

Oduncu called on the government to “keep its hands off journalists” for the effective exercise of the right to freedom of the press and the public’s right to information.

“On the one hand, the government is trying to intimidate journalists through judicial pressure. On the other, [members of] the government’s junior partner have no problem openly threatening journalists who are engaging in their profession,” Oduncu said, referring to the AKP’s far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Figures close to the MHP have been threatening journalists who are covering a trial concerning the murder of Sinan Ateş, an academic and former leader of the Grey Wolves (Ülkü Ocakları), the youth wing of the MHP.

The 38-year-old Ateş was fatally shot in Ankara on December 30, 2022. His murder in broad daylight sent shockwaves across the country. The case has stirred a debate about the power struggles within the country’s nationalists and accusations of a political coverup.

Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey, which has been suffering from a poor record of freedom of the press for years, ranks 158th among 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index published on May 3 on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.

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