European Parliament members asked Turkish government under the autocratic rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to release jailed journalists in Turkey in a joint statement on Thursday.
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) as well as the Human Rights Watch (HRW) backed the five European lawmakers including Italian MP Fabio Massimo Castaldo, Slovenian MP Tanja Fajon, German MP Rebecca Harms, Czech MP Michaela Šojdrová and Spanish MP Jordi Sole Fernando on the initiative.
According to a report by Hurriyet Daily News, “By publicly supporting jailed journalists, we want to eternalize their personal stories,” Castaldo said, as each of the five MPs held pictures of the jailed Turkish journalists.
“It is a duty to publicize and support the jailed journalists in Turkey as the political situation there is deteriorating,” said Tanja Fajon, a social democrat who held a picture of Şahin Alpay who was a columnist of Zaman daily.
Zaman newspaper, one time Turkey’s most selling daily, was unlawfully seized by Turkish government in March 4, 2016. The newspaper was shut down in July 2016 by the government decision as part of unprecedented crackdown on critical and independent media outlets in Turkey.
Czech MP Michaela Šojdrová said these cases “are five of the many” while holding a picture of Akın Atalay, daily Cumhuriyet’s CEO.
The European Parliament proposed on Oct. 25 to reduce European Union funds to Turkey that are linked to its stalled bid to join the bloc. Of the 217 million euros set to go to Turkey for reforms, infrastructure and agriculture in 2018, EU lawmakers agreed to cut up to 80 million euros. Of that, 50 million euros should be cut at first, with a further 30-million-euro reduction if Turkey does not improve its human rights record, the proposal said.
A recently submitted report by Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has indicated that the detention and prosecution of journalists in Turkey was “prone to arbitrary application due to their vague formulations,” daily Cumhuriyet reported on Oct. 18.
“Turkey is not respecting freedom of speech, freedom of expression, human rights and is drifting further away from European democratic standards,” said center-right lawmaker Siegfried Muresan, who led the budget discussions. “We cannot pretend we don’t see that,” he told Reuters, emphasizing that the cuts would affect only the money earmarked for political reforms, not for infrastructure and farming.
“Certain criminal provisions on the security of the state and terrorism are prone to arbitrary application due to their vague formulation and the overly broad interpretation of the concepts of terrorist propaganda and support for a terrorist organization, including to statements and persons that clearly do not incite violence,” Muižnieks said in the report submitted to the ECtHR on Oct. 10.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who pressed for action on Turkey during her re-election campaign, described Turkish behavior on human rights as “unacceptable” in Brussels on Oct. 19.
In the wake of the failed coup on July 15, 2016, the employees of many publications and media organs were detained on terrorism charges.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Centre for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 255 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of October 26, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 231 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 journalists who live 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 more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt