Media watchdogs criticize Turkey over treatment of journalists

Published October 22nd, 2015 - 10:28 GMT

A coalition of international media rights groups has criticized the Turkish government over its increased repression of local journalists and news outlets ahead of the November 1 general elections, noting that twenty Turkish members of the press are now behind bars in the country. 

The coalition, in a statement, said pressure on correspondents in Turkey has dramatically increased and also significantly impacted journalists’ ability to freely and independently report on matters of public interest since the June 7 poll.

“This pressure, if allowed to continue, is likely to have a significant, negative impact on the ability of voters in Turkey to share and receive necessary information, with a corresponding effect on Turkey’s democracy,” part of the statement read.

The coalition also urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “end all exercises of direct personal pressure on owners and/or chief editors of critical media, stop using negative or hostile rhetoric targeting journalists, accept the greater degree of criticism that comes with holding public office, stop using criminal ‘insult’ or ‘defamation’ provisions to silence critics and publicly call on supporters to refrain from seeking to initiate such cases on his behalf.” 

It further noted that steps were needed to guarantee journalists' freedom of investigation into stories involving matters of public interest, namely allegations of corruption among senior officials, purported human rights violations, the ongoing conflict in neighboring Syria, the Kurdish issue as well as local or regional developments.

Ankara has been under fire for clamping down on journalists and sentencing them to long prison terms.

On October 9, Turkish police arrested the editor-in-chief of the English-language newspaper, Today’s Zaman, for reportedly posting a series of tweets critical of Erdogan.

Bulent Kenes was detained after police raided the newspaper’s headquarters in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

Turkish journalists held a demonstration in Istanbul on October 3 to protest against the growing suppression of media and threats against reporters in the country.

On May 29, the center-left Turkish daily, Cumhuriyet, posted on its website a video, allegedly showing trucks belonging to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) being inspected by security officers.

The inspectors then spotted cardboard boxes inside the metallic container with the “fragile” marking on them. They opened the boxes and found a considerable amount of munitions hidden in crates below boxes of medicine.

Cumhuriyet said the trucks were carrying around 1,000 mortar shells, hundreds of grenade launchers and more than 80,000 rounds of ammunition for light and heavy weapons. 

Erdogan later said a "heavy price" was looming for the newspaper.Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief Can Dundar responded to the Turkish president’s rhetoric, tweeting, "We are not civil servants but journalists. Our duty is not to hide the state's dirty secrets but to call it to account in the name of people."  

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