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Erdoğan celebrates journalists day as Turkey remains worst jailer of press members

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivers a speech during the 9th Ambassadors Conference at the Presidental Complex in Ankara, on January 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a message on Monday to celebrate Jan. 10, Working Journalists Day, as Turkey has been declared the worst jailer of journalists in the world for the second year in a row amid ever-increasing pressure on media in the country.

At least 144 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkey. A total of 178 media outlets have been shut down since a failed coup attempt on July 15. Thousands of journalists are unemployed, and many are persecuted due to their reporting and social media messages.

Yet, President Erdoğan underlined the importance of a free media for a developed country in his message.  Erdoğan also urged the media to remain true to accurate and objective news reporting.

Just on Friday, following the posting of a video that included subtitles fabricated by a pro-government TV station, Erdoğan cited the video clip and claimed that an American general said the US established the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“An American general makes a statement saying ‘We established Daesh’ [Arabic acronym for ISIL]. I am not saying it, an American general said so,” Erdoğan pointed out in a speech, although several media outlets revealed that the translated subtitles were fabricated by the TV station, which is run by Erdoğan’s cousin.

The pro-government media in Turkey often run fabricated anti-Western and anti-American stories to support the government’s narrative that a “superior mind” is behind every plot against Turkey and Muslims in general.

In addition to Turkish journalists who are either imprisoned or exiled due to result of unprecedented pressure against media, Turkey also targets foreign journalists.

Don Nissenbaum, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, was detained in the last week of December in Istanbul and was held for two-and-a-half days without access to his family or attorneys before his release.

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