Report: Turkey’s press freedom not improved after state of emergency, journalists remain behind bars

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A journalist holds a placard reading "free media" during a demonstration for the World Press Freedom Day on the Istiklal avenue, in Istanbul, on May 3, 2017. According to the P24 press freedom website on April 4, 2017, there are 141 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were detained as part of the state of emergency imposed after the failed coup. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

“The press freedom environment in [Turkey] has not improved since the lifting of the state of emergency in July 2018. Scores of journalists remain behind bars or under travel bans as a consequence of an extended, politically motivated crackdown against the media,” a recent report drafted by eight international press freedom and journalism organizations said Monday, after a brief visit to Turkey in September and a series of interviews with Turkish officials, associations and journalists.

The report is the result of a collaboration among the International Press Institute (IPI), ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Reporters without Borders (RSF), Norwegian PEN and PEN International, the IPI statement on its website said.

It reflects the findings of a joint mission to Turkey from Sept. 11 to 13, during which the eight groups met with Turkey’s Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Ministry of Justice as well as Turkish-based civil society groups and journalists, it added.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) arrested dozens of journalists critical of the government in the aftermath of a failed coup on July 15, 2016 on terrorism or coup charges under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

“The removal of up to one-third of judges and a wave of cases resulting from the post-coup-attempt crackdown has placed a burden on the judiciary but cannot be used as an excuse to fail to offer redress to ongoing, systemic and severe violations of fundamental rights,” according to the report.

“Turkey must urgently revise all anti-terror and defamation laws, repeatedly abused to silence critical press. In particular it must end the deliberate conflation of public criticism with terrorism propaganda,” the report recommended, referring to dozens of criminal cases opened against Turkish journalists.

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