An increasing number of journalists are being subjected to government pressure and judicial harassment in Turkey, where 91 journalists are currently in prison for doing their jobs, according to a report by the Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association, a Diyarbakır-based journalism advocacy group.
The association recently released its report on rights violations suffered by journalists in Turkey in 2020. According to the report, 91 journalists are behind bars, while 79 were taken into police custody. Among these journalists, 24 were arrested.
In 2020, 19 journalists suffered physical attacks, while 17 received threats or were subjected to maltreatment. Twelve journalists were prevented from covering a story, and 54 faced investigation due to their reports. Cases were filed against 53 journalists, while 43 were given prison sentences totaling 150 years as well as fines of TL 56,310.
A total of 539 journalists are standing trial, eight newspapers were banned from publishing state ads, access bans were imposed on 1,960 news reports and 145 websites, and six journalists were fired.
Turkey’s journalists continued to face pressure in the first days of 2021 as Mehmet Aslan from the Mezopotamya news agency was detained following a raid on his house on Jan. 5 and then was arrested on Jan. 9. Another journalist, Pınar Gayıp from the Etkin News Agency (ETHA), was detained on Jan. 14 and released under house arrest.
Yadigar Aygün, a reporter from the Yeni Yaşam newspaper, told Mezopotamya that Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is afraid of journalists and the possibility of the public knowing the facts and does not want the people to question the course of the developments in the country.
“In order to take the public under its control, the government uses its tools of violence on journalists and the people,” said Aygün.
One of the leading jailers of journalists in the world, Turkey was ranked 154th out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). RSF describes Turkey as “the world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists.”
Government pressure on independent journalists and news outlets in Turkey increased in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016 following which the AKP government launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 175 Turkish journalists are behind bars and 167 are wanted and either in exile or at large.