Turkey leads the world in legal harassment of women journalists

A journalist holds a placard reading "free media" during a demonstration for the World Press Freedom Day on the Istiklal avenue, in Istanbul, on May 3, 2017. AFP

Turkey has the highest rate of legal harassment of women journalists in the world and ranks second in the number of women journalists imprisoned, Turkish Minute reported, citing a report by the Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ).

“The Turkish government leads the list of countries weaponizing the law to silence women journalists,” says the report covering the first quarter of 2023, noting that Turkey had also topped this list in the first quarter of last year.

Kurdish women journalists are targeted the most by the government, which uses terrorism charges to censor and persecute them, the report says.

Furthermore, based on CFWIJ data, Turkey ranks second in the world for the highest number of incarcerated women journalists, following Iran. As of April 30, the report showed that there are 28 women journalists imprisoned in Iran, 19 in Turkey and 15 in China.

Harassment during earthquake coverage

The CFWIJ report also brings attention to the distressing reality that was faced by journalists, particularly women journalists, during coverage of the massive earthquakes in Turkey in February.

Similar to the first quarter of 2022, Turkey has the highest number of legal harassment cases.

“A climate of distrust of media workers, particularly journalists with foreign media outlets, has been consistently cultivated by the Turkish government. Negative political rhetoric targeting the press can create hostility, leading to threats against journalists and media outlets.

“The litany of assaults on journalists covering the country after the earthquakes show how dangerous this rhetoric can be. Mobs of private citizens threatened and assaulted women journalists for simply recording disaster sites,” the report said.

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 since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey is ranked 165th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

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