COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 27 Turkish journalists: report

Journalist work during a protest despite COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO / AFP)

A total of 27 Turkish journalists have died of COVID-19, the Geneva based non-profit Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) said in a press statement released on Monday.

The pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 1,500 journalists in 77 countries around the world, according to the statement.

“More than six journalists on average died per day as a result of Covid-19 in May, a sad record,” said PEC General Secretary Blaise Lempen. Of those, at least 95 — three deaths per day — have lost their lives in India, where the pandemic has peaked in infections, and 26 in Brazil, which has seen almost one death per day.

“Unfortunately, in developing countries, progress in immunization is insufficient for the pandemic to slow. Journalists remain a particularly exposed profession, on the front line, in the fight against the coronavirus,” he added.

According to the list, Turkish journalists who succumbed to COVID-19 include: Andan Genç, Semir Yazıcı, Burhan Kazmalı, Cüneyt Circi, Metin Türkyılmaz, Seçkin Türesay, Tanju Cılızoğlu, Zozo Toledo, Omar Khashram, Hikmet Bakan, Yılmaz Tarancı, Akif Çelik, Cengiz Koncuk, Ahmet Kekeç, Hacı Bozkurt,  Ferhat Koç, Hasan Can, Süleyman Usta, İbrahim Toru, İlhan Erk, Tevfik Fazlı Doğan, Yakup Kocabaş, Süleyman Şah Gökcan and Hıdır Keleş.

Turkey is one of the world’s biggest jailers of professional journalists and ranked 153rd among 180 countries in terms of press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Jailed journalists are particularly at risk of contracting COVID-19 in the country’s notoriously overcrowded prisons. In March, renowned Turkish academic and columnist professor Sedat Laçiner was hospitalized due to COVID-19. In April Ali Ahmet Böken, 49, a veteran Turkish journalist and prominent broadcaster, contracted COVID-19.

The Turkish parliament passed an early parole law on April 14 aimed at reducing the inmate population of the country’s overcrowded prisons due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, the legislation excluded political prisoners, including opposition politicians, journalists, lawyers, academics and human rights defenders convicted under the country’s controversial counterterrorism laws. The law prompted calls from the UN, the EU and rights groups for the non-discriminatory reduction of prison populations.

According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 172 journalists are behind bars in Turkey and 167 are wanted and either in exile or at large.

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