Dunja Mijatović, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) representative on freedom of the media, on Wednesday displayed a strong reaction to the Monday arrest of Deniz Yücel, a Die Welt journalist, in Turkey, calling on the government to stop the constant purge against critical voices.
“Neither last year’s coup attempt nor the existing security threats could justify silencing critical voices in the country,” said Mijatović in her statement.
“I am greatly concerned by the arrest of Deniz Yücel, and by the severe charges accusing him of propaganda in support of a terrorist organization and inciting the public to violence,” added Mijatović.
“His case is another striking example of the current critical state of media freedom in Turkey, where close to 150 journalists are in prison for doing their work.”
“Fully recognizing the challenges and terrorist threats that Turkey is facing, and once again condemning the attempted coup, it is time for the constant purge against critical voices to stop,” Mijatović said.
Noting the continuing decline in freedom of expression and freedom of the media in Turkey over the last several months, she again urged the authorities to immediately change their approach toward critics and release people put in prison merely for their work as journalists.
“We see outstanding journalists such as Ahmet Şık and Kadri Gürsel imprisoned for months,” the representative said.
Investigative journalist Şık was arrested on Dec. 30, while International Press Institute (IPI) board member Kadri Gürsel, recently nominated for the 2017 UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, was arrested on Oct. 31. Along with other arrested journalists, they are being held in difficult circumstances with limited rights to communicate with the outside world.
Mijatović said more than 100 journalists have been jailed since the coup attempt last July, with some of them reportedly held under extremely difficult conditions and without access to proper medical care. She said dozens of journalists have been attacked since summer, more than 150 media outlets have been closed, in excess of 10,000 members of the media have lost their jobs and thousands are currently awaiting trial for their critical tweets or other social media posts.
“I call on the Turkish authorities not to delay this much-needed shift in their approach, to respect their obligations on freedom of the media and to start by freeing journalists and allowing journalists currently on trial to defend themselves as free persons,” Mijatović said, once again offering her office’s assistance to Turkish authorities when undertaking this critical process.