RSF says Turkey repeatedly jails journalists to intimidate them

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a nongovernmental organization focusing on safeguarding the right to freedom of information, has said Turkey uses repeated imprisonment of journalists as a technique to intimidate them, putting the number of journalists jailed in the country during the course of 2023 at 43, Turkish Minute reported.

RSF on Thursday released its annual round-up of violence and abuses against journalists on the basis of data collected from January 1 to December 1.

The report found a drop in the number of journalists detained worldwide, from 569 to 521, on December 1, 2023 compared to the same date in 2022, which RSF said can be partly explained by the decline in the number of journalists in prison on that date in Iran (down 24) and Turkey (down 23).

“Not being among the top three jailers doesn’t mean that these two countries don’t jail: One of the techniques of persecuting journalists in Iran and Türkiye is actually to imprison them repeatedly. In 2023, a total of 43 Turkish journalists and 58 Iranian journalists spent time in prison,” said the report, adding that imprisonment of 43 journalists in Turkey “demonstrates the extent with which detention is used as a method of intimidation.”

According to the RSF report, seven journalists are still behind bars in Turkey, including four Kurdish journalists who are being detained provisionally in investigations targeting about 10 employees of the pro-Kurdish media.

According to the Expression Interrupted platform, the total number of journalists in prison in Turkey is 37.

The report said Kurdish journalists are particularly targeted by the Turkish authorities.

During a wave of arrests in April 2023, 13 Kurdish journalists were jailed on the eve of the presidential election in May.

Turkey saw the arrest of a number of journalists working for anti-government or pro-Kurdish media outlets, particularly before the May general election, which was interpreted as an attempt by the government to silence its critics. Many said the arrest of the journalists prevented the elections from being held in a free and fair environment.

It is common for journalists in Turkey, which has a poor record on freedom of the press, to face threats, physical attacks and legal harassment due to their work.

Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, eliminating media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure, especially after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey ranks 165th in the RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index among 180 countries, dropping 16 places and ranking not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

RSF’s report also found an overall decline in the number of journalists killed in the line of duty or in connection with their work despite the ongoing Israeli attacks on the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

In 2023, a total of 45 journalists were killed in connection with their work, 16 fewer than in 2022, which was the lowest figure recorded since 2002, the RSF report showed.

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