Turkey still among top 10 offenders in CPJ’s census of imprisoned journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has published its annual prison census for 2023, which shows that Turkey is still among the top 10 countries where journalists are imprisoned, Turkish Minute reported.

According to the census, as of December 1, 2023, there were 320 journalists jailed worldwide, with Turkey and Egypt each holding 13 journalists, accounting for 6 percent of the total number.

This number, although a decrease from Turkey’s previous count of 40, keeps it on the list of top offenders.

China leads the list with 44 journalists imprisoned, representing 19 percent of the total. Close behind is Myanmar, with 43 journalists in custody, also making up 19 percent.

Belarus has jailed 28 journalists, accounting for 12 percent, followed by Russia with 22, and Vietnam with 19. Iran and Israel, along with the Occupied Palestinian Territory, each have 17 journalists behind bars, comprising 7 percent of the global total. Eritrea also ranks high with 16 imprisoned journalists.

The CPJ report emphasizes the ongoing challenges journalists face globally, particularly under authoritarian governments and in regions of conflict. The high number of imprisonments is a clear indicator of the extent to which press freedom is being curtailed worldwide.

Turkey has seen a significant decrease in the number of journalists detained, from 40 in 2022 to 13 in 2023. However, this reduction does not necessarily indicate an improvement in the press freedom environment within the country. The CPJ’s findings from two fact-finding visits to Turkey in late 2023 suggest that the lower number of detained journalists does not reflect a more liberal stance towards the press.

Restrictions remain as many journalists released in 2023 are still under judicial supervision, meaning they must regularly report to a police station and may be banned from foreign travel, or free pending investigations or trials.

The CPJ says that accusations such as fake news and anti-state activities are used to suppress critical journalism, with more than half of those imprisoned facing such charges. The lack of transparency and due process in many of these cases further exacerbates the plight of journalists in these countries.

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 Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 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.

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