Turkey holds 235 journalists in prisons on eve of World Press Freedom Day

In the days leading up the World Press Freedom Day, Turkey stands out from the crowd by a distant margin by holding a record number of 235 journalists and media workers behind bars, breaking an all time world record.

More than half of the journalists who are in prison around the world are now located in Turkey, a member of the Council of Europe (CoE) and a candidate member for the European Union (EU).

Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a Sweden-based monitoring and rights advocacy group, has documented that 235 journalists are now in prison, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction.

An İstanbul court on April 27 accepted a prosecutor’s indictment against 30 employees of Zaman, one-time the largest circulated daily before the government takeover and closure, including columnists, reporters and executives. The first hearing of the case is scheduled to be held on September 18, meaning that they will appear in the court for the first time after 14 months in pre-trial detention.

Of those in Turkish prisons, 214 are arrested pending trial, Only 21 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons.  An outstanding detention warrants remain for 103 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

On April 18, 2017, 20 employees of state-run broadcasting network TRT were arrested in Ankara. SCF regrets for being unable to list their names as the work is still underway to identify these people by names and find out what charges they are facing. When added, the total of jailed journalist actually climbs to 245.

The updated list is posted on SCF’s website with searchable format by name, last name, status, date of arrest, prison, media outlet and media type. We continue adding missing names to the list when SCF was alerted by the relatives and colleagues who provided facts on detained, arrested or exiled journalists and media workers.

Turkey ranks 155th (down 4 than previous year’s record) among 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in April. RSF claimed Erdoğan’s Turkey swung over into the authoritarian regime camp and now distinguishes itself as the world’s biggest prison for media professionals.

Moreover, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has decided to reopen a monitoring process against Turkey last week over substantial backslide on the rule of law, democratic principles, fundamental rights and freedoms. The PACE also warned Turkey to take urgent measures for the release of jailed journalists.

Journalists in Turkey are accused on trumped up charges of being membership in a terrorist organization, spreading terrorist propaganda and attempting to overthrow the current government. Yet, there is no singel evidence presented by the government to the alleged crimes other than published articles, Twitter messages and books.

Almost 90 percent of jailed journalists lost their freedom after the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 which the opposition claimed it was a controlled coup by Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The Turkish government continuously claims “there is no single journalist behind bars “and says “all jailed journalists have been accused of charges that has nothing to do with journalistic work.” President Erdoğan called jailed journalists as “thieves, child abusers and terrorists” last March.

April 30, 2017

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