Erdoğan denies rights reports, says not many journalists in prison

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

There are not as many journalists in Turkish jails as has been claimed by human rights advocates, and those journalists who are in prison are there due to crimes not related to their profession, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday, according to the Karar daily.

When asked if there are many journalists in prison and if there is no freedom of the press in Turkey, President Erdoğan said at a meeting with youth representatives that “These are lies. Many of them [journalists] are in prison for theft, arms smuggling and similar crimes. They have nothing to do with journalism.” 

President Erdoğan took questions from a select audience of young people at the presidential palace in Ankara on some of the most contentious aspects of his time in power.

According to a report by the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency (MA), 34 journalists have been arrested for their work in the last 11 months as part of separate investigations across Turkey.

Turkish authorities have in the last few years cracked down on websites, social media accounts and posts covering news stories critical of President Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), leading to accusations that freedom of expression has been curtailed.

Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, closing down media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure, especially after President Erdoğan survived a coup attempt in July 2016.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 90 percent of the national media in Turkey, which was ranked 165th among 180 countries in the RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, is owned by pro-government businessmen and toe the official line.

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