ECtHR decides to prioritize applications by journalists regarding press freedom

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will give priority to applications regarding press freedom and journalists, in line with a recent amendment to its bylaw, German news outlet Deutsche Welle reported on Wednesday.

ECtHR has made an amendment on its bylaw on Wednesday regarding the sorting of cases that will be processed after journalists in many European countries have applied to the court in recent years with complaints on press freedom, the report stated. According to the amendment, the ECtHR will now process applications filed by detained or arrested individuals directly linked to the use of a right envisaged in the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) under the “Category I” as an “urgent” application. ECtHR had previously processed cases with “urgent” under category regarding cases particularly risking to life or health of the applicant.

It was reported that the amendment had mostly been triggered by applications filed by detained or arrested journalists from countries such as Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan. Following the latest amendment, the ECHR is now expected to prioritize proceedings for applications filed by Turkish journalists in recent months and demand the government’s plea.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 264 journalists are now in jails as of May 27, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 241 are arrested pending trial, only 23 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 coup attempt.

Turkey currently has the biggest number of cases filed against it at the ECtHR with dismissals in public sector in the wake of the July 2016 failed coup attempt. There are currently 23,000 applications filed against Turkey at the court. Some 17,630 of those applications were filed in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Applications from Turkey make up 24,7 percent of 93,150 applications at the ECtHR’s agenda. Turkey is followed by Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Russia and Italy.

A military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 in Turkey killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency on May 28, 154,694 individuals have been detained and 50,136 have been jailed due to alleged Gülen links since the failed coup attempt. Law enforcement have  also caught hundreds of people attempting to illegally leave Turkey to neighboring countries so far. Not satisfied with dismissals, Turkish government cancelled passports of thousands of people while putting travel ban on many others.

June 1, 2017

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