Turkey again named world’s leading jailer of journalists
Journalist and deputy Mustafa Balbay (C) gestures as he sits at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, on Dec 10, 2013. Balbay was released on Dec 9, 2013 after five years in prison, following a Constitutional Court decision remarking that his detention exceeded the reasonable duration and that his right to stand for election were violated. AFP PHOTO
Turkey has been named the world’s number one jailer of journalists for the second consecutive year, followed closely by Iran and China, a U.S.-based watchdog said Dec. 18.
The number of journalists behind bars in Turkey is 40; down from the 61 recorded in October 2012, and less than the 49 on Dec. 1, 2012, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The number of journalists killed and imprisoned fell in 2013 but despite this decrease it was still the second worst year on record for reporters in prison, and Turkey still had the world record in number of jailed journalists, holding more in custody than Iran, China, or Eritrea.
“As a NATO member and a regional leader, Turkey should not belong in the list of top press jailers. But from the failure to reform its legislation in a meaningful way to the crackdown on its journalists in the aftermath of the Gezi Park protests, Turkey has grown increasingly repressive despite the modest decline in the number of media workers behind bars,” said the CPJ in a statement on its website.
“It is frankly shocking that Turkey would be the world’s worst jailer of journalists for the second year in a row,” it added.
“Jailing journalists for their work is the hallmark of an intolerant, repressive society,” said CPJ executive director Joel Simon.
The CPJ said it had contacted Turkish officials over the issue in September and was informed by the Justice Ministry that there were 54 journalists jailed on different charges. The CPJ found, however, that out of 54 jailed journalists, 40 of them were jailed for their work, and further concluded that there was not sufficient information to determine that the imprisonments in the other 14 cases were work-related and continued its investigation over these cases.
Together, Turkey, Iran and China accounted for more than half of the 211 journalists imprisoned around the world in 2013, making it the second worst year since records began in 1990, Agence France-Presse reported. In 2012, there were 232 jailed journalists.
In Vietnam, the number of journalists behind bars rose from 14 in 2012 to 18 after what CPJ called an intensified crackdown on bloggers.
“It is disturbing to see the number of jailed journalists rise in countries like Vietnam and Egypt,” said Simon.
Meanwhile, so far this year, 52 journalists have been killed around the world as a direct result of their work, down from 73 last year, the CPJ said.
Syria, due to its civil war which has killed more than 126,000 people and created 2.4 million refugees, was the deadliest country for journalists for a second year running.
CPJ said 21 reporters were killed in Syria, six in Egypt, five in Pakistan, four in Somalia, three in Brazil and another three in Iraq. In Mali and Russia, two were killed.
One journalist was killed each in Turkey, Bangladesh, Colombia, Philippines, India and Libya.
The number of journalists imprisoned by the Syrian government fell from 15 in 2012 to 13, but dozens of others have been abducted and are believed to be held by armed opposition groups. About 30 journalists are missing in Syria.
Watchdog: Fewer reporters killed in 2013 than 2012
The media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders has said fewer journalists have been killed this year than last year, but many more have been kidnapped.
The watchdog released a statement yesterday saying that 71 journalists had been killed in connection with their work in 2013. That represents a drop from last year’s 88, but 2012 was considered an exceptionally deadly year and this year’s toll is still above those in previous years, the Associated Press reported.
The civil war in Syria has significantly contributed to the rise in journalist deaths over the past two years. A total of 10 reporters were killed in Syria this year.
The conflict has also contributed to a dramatic increase in journalist kidnappings, which have more than doubled to 87. Reporters Without Borders said the abductions in Syria - of which there were 49 this year - were also becoming “more systematic.”
Meanwhile, the watchdog also stated that journalists were systematically targeted by security forces in Turkey over the course of the summer’s Gezi Park protests, and to a lesser extent in Ukraine throughout the recent Independence Square (“Maidan”) protests.
Turkey continues to be one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists, said the Reporters Without Borders statement, adding that at least 27 journalists and two media assistants were being held in connection with their work in the country.
“Supported by an arsenal of repressive laws, the courts are quick to treat outspoken journalists as ‘terrorists.’ Suspects often spend years in preventive detention before being tried. Of the roughly 60 media workers currently imprisoned, at least 29, including Turabi Kişin and Merdan Yanardağ, are being held in connection with their work of gathering and disseminating news and information. Many other cases are still being investigated,” said the statement.