‘At least 721 journalists arrested in Turkey in 17 years’

CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu

At least 721 journalists were arrested in Turkey between 2002 and 2019, 93 of whom are still in prison, a report released on Thursday by Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a deputy from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’ Party (CHP) and a prominent human rights activist, has revealed.

According to the report, within the same period 415,000 domains, 140,000 links, 42,000 tweets, 12,450 YouTube accounts, 7,200 Twitter accounts and 6,500 Facebook accounts were blocked by the government.

While more than 10,000 journalists lost their jobs, various punitive measures in the form of access or advertising bans, broadcast or program suspensions and fines were taken against 158 media outlets and Internet sites, the report found.

In the first six months of 2020, at least 19 journalists, writers or publishers were sentenced to prison, while at least 16 were arrested and 52 were detained.

Commenting on the report, Tanrıkulu said: “In Turkey, which has backslid even beyond 1908 [a reference to Ottoman Turkey, where the government maintained a tight grip on the press] with the rule of the Justice and Development Party [AKP], journalists are now unable to write the news. Pressure and bans have been on the increase for the last 18 years. While thousands of journalists who refused to give in to the ruling party were fired, others who are just trying to do their jobs have to deal with investigations, prosecutions, detentions, arrests and broadcast bans. Now lawyers rather than editors read the news first because of worries about prosecution.”

According to the Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom Index in which Turkey was ranked 154th among 180 countries in terms of press freedom, Turkey is the world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists.

The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 177 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkey, while 168 wanted on fabricated terrorism charges have been forced to live in exile.

The Turkish government has seized nearly 200 media outlets including the country’s largest daily as well as most popular TV networks since 2015.

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