Report: 315 Turkish journalists face 47 life sentences plus 3,034 years in jail

According to an Independent Communication Network (BİA) report, 315 media employees in Turkey, including reporters, columnists, executives and illustrators, face 47 aggravated life sentences, one life sentence, 3,034 years of imprisonment and TL 4.040.000 ($840,000) in damages.

The report stated that in 33 trials in April, May and June, the courts handed down two aggravated life sentences without the chance of parole and 137 years, two months and 19 days in prison to journalists on charges of supporting a failed coup in 2016, disseminating terrorist propaganda, membership in a terrorist organization, defying state institutions or insulting the president.

In that same period 22 journalists were accused by prosecutors of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with only two of them acquitted thus far.

The report also revealed that 32 news stories, 77 tweets, 22 Facebook posts and five YouTube videos were censored during those three months. Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, has been blocked in Turkey since April 2017 for publishing an article that claimed Turkey had ties to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

As of July 1, the report says, 127 journalists were behind bars. While 73 of them were working in media outlets affiliated with the Gülen movement, 39 were employees in the Kurdish media. In the three-month period, five more journalists were detained.

Turkish authorities accuse the Gülen movement of orchestrating a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, although the movement strongly denies any involvement. Since then more than 200,000 people from the movement have been investigated, according to the Justice Ministry.

In that period, two reporters and a media office were physically attacked, and 65 journalists were subjected to verbal assaults, including seven death threats.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli ran an advertisement in a number of newspapers on June 26, listing the names of 70 journalists from various media outlets, researchers and polling company managers who, according to him, had defamed his party during the recent election campaign. Bahçeli’s close friend, notorious mafia leader Alaattin Çakıcı, also posted a death threat on Instagram aimed at columnists from the Karar daily after it reported on the claim.

Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), a media watchdog, ordered the discontinuation of six TV programs and issued fines totaling more than TL 1 million ($207,000) on 14 occasions.

Also in this period, 25 journalists lost their jobs.

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 240 journalists and media workers were in jail as of July 24, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 179 were under arrest pending trial while only 61 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 144 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. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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