EFJ: Conviction of Turkey’s Zaman journalists a politically motivated decision

“Prosecuting workers solely on the basis of their work is not based on fact but is a politically motivated decision,” the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has said regarding the recent conviction of six journalists from the now-closed Zaman daily.

“Our colleagues from the Zaman newspaper did not take part in the coup attempt and condemned it afterwards. … The Turkish authorities must drop all the charges and release the journalists and columnists,” the EFJ added in a statement published on July 9.

Six journalists and columnists were sentenced to prison by a court in Istanbul for alleged membership in an armed illegal terrorist organization. The suspects were all working for the now shuttered Zaman newspaper, which was closed down by Turkish authorities following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The court found the six journalists guilty of “membership in an armed organization” based on their articles and on opinions expressed in the newspaper. Ali Bulaç, Şahin Alpay and Ahmet Turan Alkan were sentenced to eight years, nine months in prison; Mümtaz’er Türköne and Mustafa Ünal were sentenced to 10 years, six months; and İbrahim Karayeğen was sentenced to nine years in prison.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 239 journalists and media workers were in jail as of July 9, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 178 were under arrest pending trial while only 61 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 143 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

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