Press freedom NGO criticizes harsh sentences for journalists in Turkey

Photo: Artı Gerçek

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) Monitoring Coordinator Gürkan Özturan has condemned the harsh sentences recently handed down by Turkish courts to journalists from the Mezopotamya news agency (MA) and JINNEWS, calling for an immediate end to the repression of journalists in the country, MA reported.

Özturan expressed his concerns over these sentences, highlighting the broader issue of press and media freedom violations in Turkey, which he noted occur even more frequently than in war-torn Ukraine. He emphasized that many of these violations are executed through judicial processes.

Eight Kurdish journalists who were arrested as part of an Ankara-based investigation and released pending trial on May 16, 2023 were sentenced to six years, three months in prison on July 3.

The journalists, affiliated with MA and JINNEWS, were convicted on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” due to their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies.

“We [ECPMF] reiterate our call for an immediate end to the ongoing pressure on journalists and the criminalization of journalistic activities under various pretexts,” Özturan stated. He warned that such authoritarian restrictions on the right to information and press freedom severely threaten public access to accurate and impartial information, which is essential for informed decision-making and democratic processes.

“These restrictions prevent the public from making informed decisions, leaving society in the dark and causing significant harm to the democratization process,” he added.

Kurdish journalists in Turkey frequently face legal harassment, stand trial and are given jail sentences for covering issues related to Kurds and the outlawed PKK.

Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a coup attempt in July 2016.

Turkey, which has been suffering from a poor record of freedom of the press for years, ranks 158th among 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index published on May 3 on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.

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