OSCE, UN media freedom watchdogs call on Turkey to release jailed journalists

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A composite image showing UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye and OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir. (OSCE/Julia Shropshire/Micky Kroell)

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and United Nations officials for media freedom on Tuesday called on Turkey to release six Cumhuriyet journalists and executives in pretrial detention and emphasized the urgent need to restore media freedom and freedom of expression in the country.

In a joint statement on the OSCE website, Harlem Désir, OSCE representative on freedom of the media and David Kaye, United Nations special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said Turkey’s repression of media freedom and freedom of expression poses a direct threat to the safety of journalists and to journalism in the country.

Criticizing a recent ruling on Monday that continued the pretrial detention of six Cumhuriyet journalists and executives, Désir and Kaye said that “[t]he decision to keep them in prison is not only unworthy of a democracy, it also ignores all related international commitments the country has signed up to protect.”

“We have repeatedly urged Turkey to drop charges against the Cumhuriyet journalists and executives. They must be released immediately, together with all journalists in prison in the country,” the two mandate holders said. “Freedom of expression is not a right that may only be exercised when deemed convenient by those in power.”

The OSCE and UN officials also said: “It is only through fundamental legal and policy reforms that journalists, bloggers and social media users can exercise their rights to freedom of expression in the country,” and urged the authorities to change course without delay.

Seven Cumhuriyet journalists were released during the first hearing in July by an İstanbul court, which continued the pretrial detention of five others.

An İstanbul court on Monday evening ruled for continuation of pretrial detention for five Cumhuriyet daily journalists and an accountant.

The charges brought against 17 Cumhuriyet employees in an April indictment accuse them of aiding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and the Gülen movement, which is accused by Turkish authorities of being behind a failed coup last year.

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