JWF: The habitus of silencing journalists in Turkey have no limits

The Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF) has stated that the habitus of silencing journalists in Turkey does not have any limits, in a statement at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) “Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting: The Role of the Free Media in the Comprehensive Approach to Security” in Vienna on November 2, 2017.

Just one day after Turkish government, under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, issued detention warrants for 112 people over the links to the foundation on Wednesday, JWF stated that President Erdoğan and the Turkish government are abusing the coup attempt, which he called ‘a blessing form the God’ on the night of the coup attempt, to drift further away from European democratic standards.

Reminding that freedom of expression and freedom of the media strengthen the resilience of society to cope with challenges of security, and the fact that Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world with 255 journalists and media workers are now in jail, JWF has urged the Turkish government to release all journalists and media workers, who have unduly been detained for carrying out their professional activities as covering the corruption scandal and the post-coup crackdown in Turkey. JWF has also demanded Turkey to lift the state of emergency and immediately honour its commitment to international standards of due process and judicial independence.

Underlining that terrorism charges under the state of emergency in Turkey are being manipulated to suppress freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and fundamental human rights, JWF has also called the relevant bodies of OSCE, especially the OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to take action and raise awareness on the current situation of journalists and journalism in Turkey.

After underlining that journalism is not a crime JWF said in its statement that “Being a journalist and not in line with President Erdoğan and the Turkish government harbours the high risk to end up in prison – The habits of silencing journalists through the abuse of the criminal justice system and expanding the scope of the definition of terrorism to use it against defendants are among the human rights violations frequently cited in human rights reports as well as in documents from the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN), the Council of Europe (CoE) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).”

The statement has continued as follows:

“As it is underlined in the recently submitted report by Nils Muiznieks, the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights, to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), ‘certain criminal provisions on the security of the state and terrorism are prone to arbitrary application due to their vague formulation and the overly board interpretation of the concepts of terrorist propaganda and support for a terrorist organisation, including to statements and persons that clearly do not incite violence.’

“All of the journalists under arrest were charged with ‘membership in a terrorist organization,’ ‘spreading terrorist propaganda,’ ‘attempting to overthrow the current government’ or ‘espionage.’

“The case of journalists for whom detention warrants were issued or who were forced to live in exile constitutes another problem in terms of media freedom: They are facing serious financial hardship, pressure on their family members and relatives in Turkey as well as revocation of their press credentials, cancellation of passports and denial of consular services at Turkish embassies. The stigmatisation by Turkish pro-government media outlets is another major concern.

“Journalists working in the few remaining independent and critical media organisations have to face death threats, violence, hate speech, discrimination, profiling and censorship. The number of media organisations seized and shut down by the government has reached 189.

“This is only a clear indicator of the enormous blow to the functioning of media scrutiny on behalf of the public, but also for the widespread unemployment across the media landscape: ın the ongoing state of emergency, more than 30 percent of journalists have lost their jobs. Furthermore, many of them are not able to find jobs in non-media-sectors, because they have been blacklisted by the government.

“Only few can find a job where they cannot use their education and professional achievements and a re unable to draw their potential.

“On the other hand, courts pass seizure orders on the assets of journalists in prison or in exile, further victimising journalists and their families. The habitus of silencing journalists in Turkey does not have any limits.

“As many members of CoE and participating state of OSCE, Turkey officially recognises the rule of law as a cornerstone of democratic governance. The 15-month-old state of emergency is a clear violation of Turkey’s commitments to comprehensive security, democracy, human rights and rule of law.

“Being aware that freedom of expression and freedom of the media strengthen the resilience of society to cope with challenges of security, the JWF calls on the government of Turkey to release all journalists – journalism is not a crime.”

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 256 journalists and media workers are in jails as of October 30, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 232 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 133 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.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 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.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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