Turkish justice minister claims only 30 journalists jailed in Turkey

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has claimed that there are only 30 journalists in Turkey’s prisons and that some jailed individuals may have wrongfully presented their professions as journalism.

Responding to a parliamentary question from main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Barış Yarkadaş about the number of incarcerated journalists, Bozdağ said there were 30 journalists in jail as of Nov. 22, 2016, contrary to reports putting the number at over 190. In his response, Bozdağ said it would be wrong to calculate the number of imprisoned journalists based on the statements they gave of their profession because some individuals may falsely present themselves as journalists.

In another statement in April 2016, Bozdağ said there were two journalists with press cards in Turkey’s prisons.

A detailed report issued by new advocacy group the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) last week said that 191 journalists are in jail, 92 are wanted and 839 have been charged in Turkey.

Bozdağ’s response sparked criticism from Yarkadaş, who accused the minister of giving incorrect figures concerning the number of journalists in jail. “It is the first time the government has talked about the imprisonment of 30 journalists. Let alone 30, not even one journalist should be jailed in a country due to their journalistic activities,” Yarkadaş said.

SCF has documented the individual cases of 191 journalists who are either convicted and serving time in prison or jailed in pre-trial detention. According to the Swedish-based center, most of the journalists have not even seen an indictment against them. The report stated that 92 journalists are wanted for arrest but remain at large either in Turkey or abroad.

In a press release on Jan. 26, 2017, the center said that almost 300 journalists in Turkey, a member state of the Council of Europe and a candidate country for European Union membership, are languishing behind bars or facing outstanding arrest warrants.

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