Turkey marks Press Day amid ongoing gov’t crackdown on press freedom

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Journalists in Turkey continue to suffer from human rights violations and oppression as they celebrate Press Day, which marks the abolishment of official press censorship on July 24, 1908.

Releasing a written statement on the occasion of Press Day, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Süleyman Bülbül said 101 journalists had been prosecuted in Turkey during the 2020-2021 period and that 274 more were currently standing trial in 128 cases.

“How can it be possible to celebrate July 24 Press Day while 38 members of the press are currently behind bars?” Bülbül asked.

“In the last four months, the courts have banned access to at least 400 news reports. [President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s] Communications Director Fahrettin Altun has been constantly threatening journalists and media outlets on his social media account. It would be an understatement to say that there is censorship and oppression of the press in Turkey,” the MP added.

Bülbül also reiterated that Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Turkey 153rd among 180 countries in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

“While the government uses all its power to prevent the public from accessing accurate and impartial news, it also threatens press members with their livelihood. Journalists face police violence and handcuffs while covering the news. And this spiral of oppression and violence is growing with every passing day,” Bülbül said.

“We cannot be expected to celebrate Press Day while journalists [in Turkey] are prevented from reporting freely and the society cannot access [impartial] news. Every day will be a day of struggle for us until we regain our day. Down with tyranny, long live freedom!” the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) said in a message on Twitter.

President Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government increased its crackdown on critical media outlets and journalists in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016 following which dozens of journalists were jailed, while more than 200 media outlets were closed down under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 172 journalists are behind bars in Turkey and 167 are wanted and either in exile or at large.

After the declaration of the Second Constitutional Era in the late Ottoman Empire, newspapers started to be published without censorship for the first time on July 24, 1908. Since then, July 24 is marked as “Press Day” in Turkey.

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