Turkish courts arrested 27 journalists in 2023: report

Turkish journalist Tolga Şardan, who writes for the news outlet T24 and was recently released from pre-trial detention, holds a placard reading "We are just doing journalism" after making a statement to journalists in front of the Constitutional Court in Ankara on November 8, 2023, regarding the law discussed by the Constitutional Court and known to the public as the “censorship law”. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

Journalists in Turkey made 563 court appearances in 2023, with the courts arresting 27 out of 72 journalists who were detained by law enforcement, Turkish Minute reported on Tuesday, citing the BirGün daily and a report by an opposition politician.

The “2023 Press Freedom Report” was announced by Utku Çakırözer, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Jan. 9.

According to the report, at least 72 journalists were detained for their articles, comments or social media messages, of whom 27 were arrested.

Çakırözer’s report outlines a year of significant restrictions and punitive measures against members of the press.

Among those arrested were prominent journalists such as Merdan YanardağBarış Pehlivan and Tolga Şardan. The arrests and detentions often followed reporting on sensitive issues, including government corruption, misconduct and other matters of public interest.

The report also highlights the punitive measures and censorship imposed by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), which levied numerous broadcasting bans and substantial fines on six television stations in 2023.

Arrests and detentions made under the controversial “disinformation” law,” which criminalizes the dissemination of “false or misleading information” and stipulates prison sentences of between one and three years, were also listed in the report.

The law, which was passed in October 2022 and signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has drawn widespread criticism from rights groups and the opposition for further restricting freedom of expression in Turkey. In 2023, the law led to 36 investigations into 33 journalists, with six detained and four subsequently arrested.

Access bans continued to be a significant barrier to press freedom, as reports on corruption and misconduct involving government officials, parliamentarians, local administrators and bureaucrats were systematically blocked by courts, preventing public access to vital information.

Additionally, the report states that 21 journalists were subjected to physical violence, obstruction or threats as they were following news stories in 2023. It details instances of journalists being targeted for reporting on various issues, including the February earthquakes and the May elections.

Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey, which is known as one of the top jailers of journalists in the world, ranks 165th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, which was announced in early May.

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