14 journalists appeared in court in May, 2 convicted: report

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A report by opposition lawmaker Utku Çakırözer has revealed that 14 members of the press appeared in court and two were sentenced to prison in May in Turkey, according to the Stockholm Center for Freedom.

“The press and journalists continued to be targeted by the highest echelons of government in May,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy and former journalist Çakırözer said. “While people who carry out armed attacks on journalists walk free, police raid journalists reporting on corruption. The government, which is supposed to protect the public’s right to information, just watches what goes on.”

According to the report the journalists who appeared in court included Ersin Özgül of the Pir news agency, Lezgin Tekay of the Mezopotamya news agency and Gökha Biçici, managing editor of the Dokuz8 news website. Former managing editor of the Azadiya Welat newspaper İsmail Çoban was sentenced to three years, three months in prison.

Çakırözer said the government further restricted freedom of the press with a recent decree that paved the way for the cancellation of press cards for reasons regarded by many as arbitrary.

Turkey is one the world’s top jailers of journalists, writers and intellectuals, according to recent indexes and reports released by prominent rights organizations. Turkey was also ranked 153rd among 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in April.

According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, there are currently 173 journalists behind bars in the country, whereas 167 journalists wanted by the authorities are in exile or remain at large.

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