Turkish gov’t cancels press cards of 889 critical journalists in 2016

The press cards of a total of 889 critical journalists have been canceled in Turkey, according to statistics released by Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül, BirGün daily reported on Sunday.

In his reply to a parliamentary question by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Ömer Fethi Gürer, Justice Minister Gül has said some of the canceled cards belonged to jailed journalists, but they weren’t canceled “due to journalistic activities,” while citing several reasons for the practice, including “being member of an armed terrorist organization” and “attempting to remove the constitutional order.”

According to the minister, there were plenty of reasons behind the cancelations of 889 cards in 2016, with some of them being annulled due to journalists quitting their jobs, closure of the institution, national security policy, death, the date of the card being expired, lack of institutional documents, having another profession other than journalism, the journalist’s title or the media outlet they were working in not suiting regulations and the use of one’s press card by another.

Commenting on the statistics, Gürer said a significant number of the arrested journalists are in prison only because of their journalistic activities. “Press freedom has become something that can’t be talked about in our country,” Gürer said in a written statement.

“Reports that the government doesn’t like are treated as elements of crime. We are in a process far away from the understanding that press is free and can’t be censored. A serious oppression and censorship process that hasn’t been named is ongoing. It must be ensured that the jailed journalists must be returned to their jobs,” he also said.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 280 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of October 8, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 255 are arrested pending trial, only 25 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 134 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey. The government also closed down more than 180 media outlets since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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