The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, has written to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron requesting the two leaders take a firm stance against the imprisonment, intimidation and harassment of journalists in Turkey.
In the letters IPI urged both leaders to raise the issue of press freedom and the jailing of journalists in Turkey during a summit with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on October 27 in İstanbul. The summit, which is focused on the war in Syria and which will also be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, comes amid the international uproar over the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul.
“In recent weeks, Turkey has adopted a double standard on the issue of press freedom and the safety of journalists”, IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said in her letter to the two leaders. “While IPI appreciates that the Turkish authorities have demanded answers in the gruesome murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, this incident should not distract from the fact that Turkey itself continues to not only jail and harass journalists at home, but also to harass and pursue those living abroad.”
“IPI has closely followed the judicial procedures against these journalists and has directly observed numerous trials in various Turkish cities. Our observations and research show that Turkey’s jailed journalists are routinely denied the basic rights of defendants as well as the fair-trial guarantees under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“It is critical that you take a strong and vocal stance in support of the rule of law and fundamental rights in Turkey”, Trionfi noted in her letter.
IPI has appealed to Chancellor Merkel and President Macron to urge President Erdoğan to release all jailed journalists and to ensure that any journalists facing criminal charges are guaranteed a fair trial by an independent judiciary. It is essential that Turkey return to the group of nations that respect press freedom and the rule of law.
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 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of October 7, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 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.