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Turkish courts handed down 27 years in total to 60 journalists last month: report

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Turkish courts handed down a total of 27 years in prison to 60 journalists last month, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the 2022 September Press Freedom Report.

According to the report, announced by Utku Çakırözer, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), 60 journalists were sentenced to 27 years, seven months and 19 days in total in prison for their articles, comments or social media messages, while two of them were detained. In addition a number of journalists were allegedly subjected to physical violence,  as they were following news stories last month.

The report said police pressure on members of the press has increased and that dozens of journalists following protests and other events in various cities in September were prevented from doing their jobs due to the use of excessive force on the part of the security forces.

Çakırözer stated in his report that news about corruption and bribery scandals involving government officials and their families was blocked and that access to some news sites publishing such news was prevented.

“September was the darkest month of the year for press freedom,” Çakırözer said.

“Journalists are beaten, imprisoned and blocked in Turkey. The government, which was expected to improve the working conditions of journalists, is presenting new bills to the Turkish parliament to intensify repression and censorship. We will not allow such bills, which will further increase the pressure on the press, to pass through parliament,” the lawmaker said.

The bill that Çakırözer was referring to adds the offense, titled “Publicly Disseminating Misleading Information,” to Law No. 5237 of the Turkish Penal Code in clause A of Article 217, which says, “Anyone who publicly disseminates false information regarding the internal and external security, public order and general health of the country, with the sole motive of creating anxiety, fear or panic among the public, in a way that is suitable for disturbing the public peace, is sentenced to imprisonment from one year to three years.”

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has been relentless in its crackdown on critical media outlets, particularly after a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a coup attempt in July 2016.

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