Turkey’s Justice Ministry has refused to disclose the number of journalists currently in prison, saying this information does not concern the public, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.
The ministry’s statement came in response to an application filed by a citizen with the Presidential Communications Center (CİMER) on Sept. 7 in line with the law on the right to information, requesting the number of journalists behind bars.
“How many convicts and suspects in pretrial detention who said they were journalists are there in prisons as of September 2022?” the person asked in their question.
The Directorate General for Prisons and Detention Houses of the Ministry of Justice avoided the question and said information and documents regarding arrangements made by public institutions about their own personnel and in-house practices do not concern the public and are beyond the scope of the right to information.
The ministry’s answer bore the signature of Akın Gürlek, the deputy justice minister and a former judge who had ruled for the conviction of a number of journalists and politicians during his time on the bench.
Turkey, which has a poor record on freedom of the press, is known as one of the top jailers of journalists around the world. Yet, there are conflicting figures about the exact number of journalists behind bars in the country.
According to the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), there are 38 journalists in Turkey’s prisons, while the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says it’s 18, and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says it’s nine.
Dozens of journalists critical of the government were jailed in Turkey on bogus terrorism or coup charges following a failed coup in July 2016 as part of an anti-coup fight launched by the government. Some of these journalists have been released from prison after serving their sentences.