At a time when Turkey is called the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said there is more press freedom in Turkey than in most Western countries.
Speaking to the Qatar-based Al Arab newspaper, Erdoğan denied claims that there has been a regression in freedoms in Turkey, saying that it is possible to even criticize the government in the country.
“The opposition in Turkey can direct the heaviest criticism against the government through its own media. The closure of some media organs is the result of the rulings of the judiciary. The media outlets which are affiliated with terror [organizations] and make terror propaganda have been closed down,” Erdoğan said.
In the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, hundreds of media organizations in the country including newspapers, magazines, news agencies were closed down on terror charges. The closed-down media outlets include Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, Zaman.
With regard to the high number of journalists jailed in Turkey, Erdoğan said those journalists were not put behind bars due to journalistic activities but because of terrorist activity.
“What would happen if a newspaper or a TV station’s links to al-Qaeda were revealed? Is it possible not to take legal action against them for the sake of freedom of the press? The press freedom in Turkey is greater than it is in most Western countries,” Erdoğan said.
According to a recent report from new advocacy group the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), 191 journalists are in jail, 92 are wanted and 839 have been charged in Turkey.