OSCE’s Désir calls on Turkish gov’t to release journalists

Harlem Désir

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir called on Turkish authorities to drop terrorism charges against journalists and set them free.

“Reporting and informing the public about important and even sensitive issues has been recognized internationally as a crucial part of the journalistic profession. The media must be able to report and express their views freely even in times of conflict or war. I call on your authorities to drop terrorism charges on journalists and set them free,” Désir said in a letter to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

The OSCE’s Désir also expressed his concern about the instructions provided to editors and reporters at a press briefing in Ankara attended by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ and Minister of Defense Nurettin Canikli, containing guidelines on how to report on military actions in northwestern Syria’s Afrin region.

“I recall that journalists should not be instructed on the content of their work and that press freedom must be respected at all times. It is a journalist’s job to present different views and inform the public, even if the content contains criticism,” added Désir.

At least three journalists were arrested in Turkey this week along with more than a hundred social media users for their social media posts about a Turkish military operation that was launched on Jan. 20 in the Afrin region of Syria.

Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Jan. 21 said, “This is a national fight, and whoever opposes us will be crushed.”

Pro-government Kral FM radio host Ali Şentürk, known as “Afrikalı Ali,” called on security forces to kill anybody who criticizes Turkey’s operation in the Kurdish-controlled Afrin.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 245 journalists and media workers are in jails as of January 24, 2018, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 218 are arrested pending trial, only 27 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 140 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. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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