How Turkey becomes a jail-like state for Journalists?
Amnesty International reports that more than 120 journalists remain in prison following the post-cope crackdown since 2016
Shafiqul Islam | Chennai | February 12, 2020
In December 2020, Turkish prominent journalist Can Dündar, who edited Turkey’s center-left Cumhuriyet newspaper and is a vocal critic of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been sentenced to more than 27 years in jail on terrorism-related charges.
Dündar, who fled to Germany in 2016, said to the Guardian: “The message the Turkish government is sending here by punishing a journalist so harshly is that ‘If you cover sensitive issues this is what will happen to you.”
The declining freedom of the press situation – ranked around 154 in the 2020 annual World Press Freedom Index – has gained a constant line for years in Turkey.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) report, the country had the second-highest journalist arrested – 37 out of 274 – in the world following only China (47) ahead in 2020.
— Committee to Protect Journalists (@pressfreedom) December 16, 2020
Track Records and Major media freedom violations
In a sense, Turkey has never witnessed a free condition for journalists and writers, but the freedom of speech has faced unprecedented legal obstacles since 2016 following a failed coup attempt in July that year.
After the coup attempt, Turkey – under the current conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) lead by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – has become more “dangerous” for the journalists.
A coalition of 11 international organizations, which includes press freedom, journalists, and human rights groups, visited the country in August 2020, in order to assess the conditions for media freedom.
A coalition then gave a press statement, that says: “Turkey’s press freedom crisis is worsening amid growing state capture of media.”
Amnesty International reports that more than 120 journalists remain in prison following the post-cope crackdown since 2016.
At least 180 media outlets have been shut down while an estimated 2,500 journalists and other media workers have lost their jobs in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt.
The Stockholm Center for Freedom, which tracks cases of prosecutions of Turkish journalists, revealed that around 230 journalists have been arrested after July 15 of 2016 alone.
The organization also noted that 122 journalists received a jail sentence in the year 2018, while 520 journalists are facing 237 aggravated life sentences and an additional 3,672 years in prison on various charges.
Human rights organization the Freedom House ranked Turkey at 35 out of 100 countries in the world in its 2020 report, and specified it as a “Not Free” country saying: “Turkey has exposed the extent of internet censorship in the country.”
A report published in 2019 by the Istanbul-based Freedom of Expression Association claimed that the country had blocked access to a total of 408,494 websites till last year, including 61,049 in 2019 alone.
This report also stated that access to 130,000 URLs, 7,000 Twitter accounts, 40,000 tweets, 10,000 YouTube videos, and 6,200 Facebook contents were banned that year.
Social Media restrictions
As cracking down the mainstream media couldn’t keep the country in line, Turkey introduced a new social media law in 2020 to impose restrictions on social media. The country, however, has already fined several global social media platforms for not complying with the new law.
This law forces large social media platforms, with more than one million daily users, to open offices in the country to implement local court judgments in removing offending content within 48 hours.
Journalists in Turkey, however, are not facing only legal oppressions, but they and their families also have been harassing socially by the pro-government people.
“I am not in jail in Turkey anymore, but my wife and I have still paid a heavy price,” Dündar, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, said to the Guardian.
“Everything I had is gone. After 40 years in journalism, we have to start again. That’s the price we have to pay for defending the truth,” he added.
Numerous organizations – including the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), and renowned human rights and journalists’ organizations – have been continuously raising voices against the suppression of freedom of speech in Turkey.
But the current authoritarian’s government doesn’t want to allow a free press fearing accountability to the people.
However, this suppression must end and Journalists must be allowed to carry out their work. Because journalism is not a crime.