Journalists are threatened with imprisonment by Turkish authorities under the country’s terrorism law, known as the TMK, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a statement issued on Friday.
The TMK has become a tool for the past 20 years to “intimidate and silence journalists and media that don’t toe the official line on the Kurdish issue,” RSF underlined, saying at least 10 journalists, including its Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, are due to appear in court over the next few weeks on terrorism charges.
In addition to Önderoğlu, Melis Alphan, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Ahmet Nesin, Murat Çelikkan, Ayşe Düzkan, Sibel Hürtaş, Abdurrahman Gök, Canan Coşkun, Ali Açar and Cansever Uğur will make court appearances in the coming period.
According to a report drafted by journalist and former MP Barış Yarkadaş, a total of 95 journalists appeared before a judge last month.
RSF’s Turkey representative Önderoğlu is being tried together with journalist Nesin and Fincancı of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey. They face imprisonment for almost 15 years for joining a campaign to support a newspaper that was shut down in 2016 for having alleged links to outlawed Kurdish militants.
The Özgür Gündem paper fell victim to a vicious crackdown President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan unleashed against opposition media and his political rivals after a failed coup in July 2016.
The three were acquitted of charges of “propagating terrorism” in 2019. An appeals court overturned that ruling last November and ordered a new trial.
Seventeen press freedom and human rights organizations previously signed a petition demanding the charges be dropped.
Turkey is ranked 154th among 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 175 journalists are currently behind bars in the county, while 167 are wanted and are either in exile or remain at large.
The Turkish government increased its crackdown on critical media outlets and journalists in the aftermath of the coup attempt following which dozens of journalists were jailed, while more than 200 media outlets were closed down under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.