Turkey ranks second after China in jailing journalists, according to the annual global survey of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which was published yesterday.
According to the report, although the number of arrested journalists in Turkey has dropped since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, authorities continue to arrest critical journalists and their lawyers. The report says every journalist jailed faces similar accusations, such as working against the state.
In its annual global survey, the CPJ found at least 274 journalists in jail in relation to their work as of December 1, 2020, exceeding the high of 272 in 2016. China, which arrested several journalists for their coverage of the pandemic, was the world’s worst jailer for the second year in a row. It was followed by Turkey.
CPJ’s annual global survey said 37 journalists were arrested in Turkey this year alone. According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, there are currently 174 journalists behind bars in Turkey, while 167 are wanted and are either in exile or remain at large.
Turkey experienced a controversial military coup attempt on the night of July 15, 2016 which, according to many, was a false flag aimed at entrenching the authoritarian rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by rooting out dissidents and eliminating powerful actors such as the military in his desire for absolute power.
The abortive putsch killed 251 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the attempt the government declared a state of emergency and suspended many fundamental rights and freedoms. One-hundred sixty-four media organizations were shut down without any due process and tens of journalists were rounded up on coup related charges.
The CPJ’s report also underlined that in Turkey judicial proceedings were suspended for three months in 2020, which prolonged prison for those in custody and anxiety for those free pending trial.
The report specifically mentioned the cases of three Mesopotamia News Agency (MA) journalists who were arrested for their news covering the story of two Kurdish villagers who were allegedly tortured by the Turkish military.
According to the CPJ, journalists have been badly affected by the pandemic worldwide as governments have used it as an opportunity to intensify their crackdown. “The number of journalists jailed globally because of their work hit a new high in 2020 as governments cracked down on coverage of COVID-19 or tried to suppress reporting on political unrest,” it said.