Justice minister: Only 2 press card holders are in prison

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Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag (R) listens to Turkish ambassador to the US Serdar Kilic during a press conference at the Turkish embassy in Washington, DC, on October 27, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM

While Turkey continues to imprison a record number of journalists, especially in the aftermath of a failed coup on July 15, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ insists that only two press card holders are in prison and that nobody is in jail for their journalistic activities.

Responding to a written question by Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu submitted in Parliament on Jan. 5, Bozdağ defended the government’s narrative that those who are imprisoned are cannot be considered journalists.

Bozdağ reportedly told foreign journalists on Friday during his trip to the United States that nobody is jailed in Turkey for their reporting, arguing that terrorists are imprisoned.

The Turkish government has been cancelling the press cards of journalists en masse in an effort to disqualify them as reporters in an effort to avoid facing international criticism over media freedoms.

Bozdağ is in the US to meet with his counterpart, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, to discuss the extradition of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Although Bozdağ repeatedly claimed that Turkey has submitted evidence of coup plotting by Gülen and demanded his provisional arrest, no US institution has confirmed his statements. On the contrary, Lynch’s office reportedly said that the request must meet US “evidentiary standards.”

The Turkish government has been using the issue of its request for Gülen’s extradition from the US as a domestic political tool to mobilize its constituency in the absence of any credible evidence submitted to the US.

Bozdağ stated again on Thursday that if the US does not extradite Gülen, Turkish-US relations would be damaged.

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