Stockholm Center for Freedom, an advocacy group that monitors rights violations in Turkey, has updated its mammoth list of jailed journalists in Turkey which reached to a record 200. The list is posted on SCF’s website with searchable format by name, last name, date of arrest, prison, media outlet and media type.
As of March 1, 2017, SCF has confirmed that 200 journalists and media workers are behind bars in Turkey, a world record by any measure. Of these journalists, 179 are arrested pending trial and without a conviction. Most of the journalists do not even know what the charges are or what evidence, if any, the government has because the indictments were not filed yet.
The Turkish government is apparently using arbitrary arrests as part of intimidation campaign to suppress critical coverage, muzzle independent media and silence journalists. Only 21 journalists who are in jail were convicted while the rest are in abusive and long pre-trial detentions. Moreover, sweeping detention warrants have been issued for 92 journalists who are forced to live in exile abroad or remain at large in Turkey.
SCF was made aware of 22 arrested employees of state-run broadcasting network TRT whose names were not released to public. These people are not listed by SCF as the work is still underway to identify these people, find out what charges they are facing.
Virtually all jailed journalists are accused of being “membership in a terrorist organization,” “spreading terrorist propaganda,” “attempting to overthrow the current government” or “espionage,” usual charges to silence media in authoritarian regimes. More than 85 percent of jailed journalists are put behind bars after the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Turkey hold the notorious title of world’s worst jailer of journalists as it currently has the highest number of journalists in jail worldwide. More than half the journalists who are in prison around the world are in Turkey.
The Turkish government brushes off criticism on press freedom woes and claims there are no journalists in Turkish prisons or no journalists jailed because of journalistic work.
March 1, 2017
Turkey’s press freedom woes worse than you think
(This article published on Jan. 26, 2017 as SCF report was released.)
Almost 300 journalists in Turkey, a member state of the Council of Europe and a candidate country to the European Union, are languishing behind bars or facing outstanding arrest warrants, a report released by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has revealed.
“The crackdown on press freedom in Turkey is far worse than you may think,” said Abdullah Bozkurt, the President of the SCF.
“Most of them lost their freedoms on trumped-up charges made up by the authorities while the rest, fearing the imprisonment, are forced to live in exile under often difficult and very challenging circumstances,” he added.
The unprecedented crackdown by the government has targeted critical, independent and opposition media across the board, jailing hundreds of journalists, shuttering media outlets, and forcing thousands into the unemployment.
Journalists under arrest or facing arrest warrants were charged with “membership in a terrorist organization”, “spreading terrorist propaganda”, “attempting to overthrow the current government” or “espionage”, usual allegations found in any authoritarian government that is bent on silencing critical voices.
The SCF has documented individual cases of 191 journalists who are either convicted and serving time in prison or jailed in pre-trial detention. Most fall in the latter category and the authorities have not even brought indictment against so many. It also found out that 92 journalists are wanted for an arrest but remain at large either in Turkey or abroad.
In few cases, the government also went after the family members of journalists who fled for safety, arresting the wife of a chief editor of a national daily in one instance, and jailing a brother of another leading Turkish journalist in another case.
In another bizarre case of intimidation by authorities, a driver was arrested because he worked for a media outlet and was believed to have driven the company car assigned for a critical editor.
The SCF believes the information presented in this research is accurate to the best of its knowledge and declares that it remains open to make corrections, updates if further information becomes available.
Unfortunately, Turkish government claims no journalist in Turkey is jailed, says all imprisoned media workers are criminals and terrorists. Ankara did not even provide the number of the names of journalists who have allegedly committed terror or other criminal offenses. The last attempt to obtain the list was made by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as part of this week’s report on ‘Attacks against journalists and media freedom in Europe’. The inquiries received no response as Turkish government again balked at such requests.
The government often invokes secrecy when it comes to sharing charge sheets or alleged evidence of crime against journalists with their lawyers. In many cases, family members or lawyers are unwilling to discuss details of the cases of journalists with researchers for fear of further punishment.
The journalists who are in exile or still working in the few remaining independent and critical media organizations in Turkey are faced with death threats, arrest, violence, hate speech, discrimination and censorship.
Turkey, the worst jailer of journalists worldwide, is leading the pack of notorious countries when it comes to press freedoms by a distant margin.