Turkey detained 15 members of the press while 48 others were physically attacked in the third quarter of 2021, with fines imposed on critical TV stations by the country’s broadcasting watchdog adding to the growing pressure on journalists, a report recently released by the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) has revealed.
The Media Monitoring Report on Turkey for the July-September 2021 period was prepared as part of the Media for Democracy/Democracy for Media Project, which was established by the association and funded by the European Union. It aims to strengthen pluralist media and a free press as a safeguard for democracy in the country.
At the end of September 53 journalists were behind bars, 27 of them serving sentences on convictions, the report said, adding that the three-month period had seen investigations launched into nine journalists and prison sentences handed down to nine members of the press.
“Obstacles preventing the press from fulfilling its democratic functions are increasing. Trials, threats, being pointed to as targets and [physical] attacks render journalists incapacitated,” the TGC said.
According to the report, at least 48 journalists were the subjects of attacks that included beating and the use of a gun or a knife in the third quarter of 2021, bringing the total number of assaults targeting journalist in the first nine months of the year to 103.
Citing data from the Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ), the association further stated that 61 female journalists in Turkey were subjected to violence, 27 to abuse and 61 to threats in the July to September period.
“[The policy of] impunity continues for crimes targeting journalists. The fact that the attackers couldn’t be caught or were put back on the street without punishment encourages violence. It’s becoming commonplace for any journalist [in Turkey] to be subjected to violence for any reason,” the TGC said.
The report also showed that Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), repeatedly fined TELE 1, Halk TV, KRT TV and Fox TV, all stations critical of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, over the three month period.
RTÜK has long been criticized for surrendering its independence and acting as a government weapon to punish TV stations critical of the ruling AKP while turning a blind eye to complaints about pro-government TV stations.
Turkey, which has dropped precipitously since it was ranked 100th among 139 countries when the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published its first worldwide index in 2002, when the AKP government came to power, was ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.
According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 173 journalists are behind bars in Turkey and 167 are wanted and either in exile or at large.