World media groups to call on Turkish gov’t to free jailed journalists at İstanbul meeting

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A Turkish journalist holds a banner which reads "Turkey Set Journalists Free" during a protest on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul, on March 4, 2011. Turkish police today detained about 10 people, mostly journalists, in a crackdown on an alleged secularist network accused of conspiring to topple the Islamic-rooted government. AFP PHOTO / MUSTAFA OZER / AFP PHOTO / MUSTAFA OZER

The world’s leading media organizations, including the International Press Institute (IPI), PEN International, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), Article 19 and the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC), will hold a meeting for freedom of press and expression in İstanbul on Feb. 27 and will call on the Turkish government to journalists who are currently in Turkish prisons.

While TGC President Turgay Olcayto will be giving detailed information about the Turkish journalists in prison, the meeting will also be attended by IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis, the IPI England national committee, BBC Scotland’s Managing Editor Sandy Bremner, Article 19 program officer Georgia Nash, PEN Sweden General Secretary Anna Livion Ingvarsson, RSF Advocacy Advisor Sophie Busson, RSF Turkey Representative Erol Önderoğlu and AEJ President Otmar Lahodynsky.

The meeting will begin at 3 p.m. on Monday at the TGC Burhan Felek Conference Hall in İstanbul.

The IPI launched a website on Wednesday that will serve as a resource for information on the 153 journalists and media workers currently incarcerated in Turkey.

Part of an effort to promote and defend free expression in Turkey, the website, http://freeturkeyjournalists.com, calls for every journalist behind bars to “receive due process and for the release of anyone detained for practicing journalism,” said a press release issued by IPI on Feb. 23.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has increasingly tightened its grip over journalists and media outlets since a failed coup on July 15 that killed 240 people and injured a thousand more. According to a report published on Jan. 26 by new advocacy group the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), 191 journalists are in jail, 92 are wanted and 839 have been charged in Turkey. Turkeypurge.com calculates that 149 media outlets have been shut down by government decree since July 15, 2016. Local media had reported that 866 journalists were fired from their jobs and 620 journalists had their press cards canceled during the July-September period immediately following the abortive coup.

As part of a purge by the AKP government on dissent and the critical media following the failed coup attempt, over 135,000 people have been dismissed from their jobs due to real or alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by the views of US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who the government accuses of masterminding the failed coup. Gülen strongly rejects the accusations.

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