Erdoğan says 176 of 177 journalists in jail on terrorism charges

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President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) speaks during an iftar (fast-breaking) dinner hosted by him with the media representatives at Tarabya Presidential Campus (Huber Villa) in Istanbul, Turkey on June 17, 2017. Kayhan Ozer / Anadolu Agency

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said 176 of 177 journalists in prison in Turkey are there due to their ties to terrorist organizations, noting that only two incarcerated journalists have press cards, the Diken news website reported.

“Some organizations in the West always come to us. They chant ‘Journalists are in jail.’ We are told the same thing when we are overseas: ‘There are many journalists in your prisons’,” said Erdoğan during a fast-breaking [iftar] dinner at Huber Mansion in the Sarıyer district of İstanbul on Saturday night, attended by media bossed including Aydın Doğan and a number of editors in chief and columnists.

“According to information from our [justice] ministry, only two of 177 people who are in prison and declared their profession as journalism have yellow press cards. One of those 177 is in prison for murder, while the rest are in because of their ties to terrorist organizations,” added Erdoğan.

In recent years the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has been canceling the press cards of critical journalists.

The Prime Ministry’s Media Press and Information General Directorate (BYEGM) cancelled 115 permanent press cards and 660 press cards last year.

“Running after news and  being a middleman of treason are different things. For me, there is no difference between those who give their pens, pages and headlines to the service of terrorist organizations and those who take up weapons and go to the mountains.”

According to the reports in media, Erdoğan focused on how to engage in journalism for most of his speech.

Asking media representatives to act in accordance with the interest of the country and people, Erdoğan said: “What we call freedom is not something unlimited. There is a limit to that.”

Zehra Doğan, a Turkish journalist and painter who has been handed down a prison sentence of two years, nine months, 22 days for depicting the destruction caused by military operations carried out in the Nusaybin district of Mardin province, was sent to Diyarbakır Prison last week.

Turkey is ranked 155th among 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 26.

If Turkey falls four more ranks, it will make it to the list of the countries on the blacklist, which has the poorest records in press freedom.

The US-based Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, has named Turkey as among the countries that have a “not free” press, in a report released on April 28.

According to “Freedom of the Press 2017,” the Turkish government, using enhanced powers under a state of emergency, carried out a massive purge of media outlets accused of links to the attempted military coup in July.

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