Turkey leads world in jailing journalists, OSCE study finds

Study finds Turkey surpasses Iran, China with 57 jailed journalists; reporters can be imprisoned for 3 years before being put on trial.

April 10, 2011 18:53
2 minute read.
Protests against Journalist' arrest in Turkey

Turkey Journalists Protest 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Fifty-seven journalists are imprisoned in Turkey – and between 700 and 1,000 ongoing trials could result in the imprisonment of more journalists there – according to a study by the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE), based in Vienna.

The International Press Institute stated that Turkey is now the country with the most imprisoned journalists, surpassing Iran and China. As of December, 34 journalists in both of those nations are in prisons.

Press freedom, Turkish style
Human Rights Watch slams journalists' arrest in Turkey

Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE’s representative on freedom of the media, wrote a letter to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stating the report, released last week, is intended to demonstrate that Turkey is in need of legislative reforms to protect journalists, for which she offered the assistance of her office.

The OSCE, an international security organization consisting of 56 member states, including Turkey, noted most journalists imprisoned in Turkey are sentenced under two articles of Turkey’s antiterrorism law, and an article of the country’s criminal code. The articles in question relate to assisting, establishing or commanding armed terror organizations or creating propaganda for such groups.

“Media outlets reporting about sensitive issues are often regarded by the authorities as the publishing organs of illegal organizations,” the report stated. “Writing about sensitive issues – including issues of terrorism or antigovernment activities – is often considered as supporting those issues.”

Ferai Tinc, chairman of IPI’s committee on Turkey and an IPI board member, stated that Turkey’s anti-terrorism law “threatens press freedom in Turkey,” in an IPI commentary about the OSCE report.

“We have asked the government to change this law, but, unfortunately, the government does not listen to the voices of professional journalism organizations,” Tinc added.

The OSCE’s study also noted that journalists in Turkey can be imprisoned for up to three years before their trials begin – and journalists can also face multiple court trials – with one reporter possibly having to undergo 150 trials. The longest prison sentence a Turkish journalist has received is 166 years; and the longest sentence sought by prosecutors has been 3,000 years.

The OSCE report also stated that journalists are imprisoned in high-security prisons, alongside the most dangerous criminals. If cases are classified as “secret” by the Turkish government, even the journalists’ defense attorneys cannot obtain access to trial documents.

The OSCE was unable to confirm details about certain journalists’ cases for that reason.

A compilation of imprisoned Turkish journalists and information about their cases, which accompanied the report, was prepared by Erol Onderoglu, editor-in-chief of the Istanbul-based BIANET Independent Communications Network.

“The OSCE commitments stress that everyone has the right to freedom of expression,” Mijatovic said in a statement. This right includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority.”

Turkey reaffirmed its commitment to freedom of expression at the OSCE’s summit last year in Astana, Kazakhstan.

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