123 Turkish journalists on the run abroad: Report
ISTANBULSome 123 Turkish journalists are fugitives abroad, while 159 of them were in jail as of the end of April, according to a report by the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC).
The Freedom of Expression and Press report, which was made possible by the European Union, said 46 new investigations were launched and 20 additional cases were filed against journalists in the first four months of 2017, daily Cumhuriyet reported on May 19.
“In the past four months, Turkey continued to be the world leader with the number of journalists in jail,” the report said, adding that in nearly all of the cases regarding journalists, demands for trial without arrest had been rejected.
The TGC said “it’s inevitable” to come across harsh criticism regarding press freedom in international reports, while asking for all journalists to be released, tried without arrest and acquitted.
Saying that it was “impossible” for journalists to fulfill their duties properly, thus violating the people’s right to obtain information, the association said the problems that journalists face include limitations on freedom of expression and the press, obstructions preventing journalists from freely conducting their work because of political and economic pressures, as well as hindrances that ensure journalists who use their right to criticize or refuse to report news from a certain political perspective cannot find work.
“Opposition newspapers, TV channels and the internet media, as well as intellectuals and columnists who use their right to criticize, should be tolerated,” it said, adding that “censorship and self-censorship were on the rise.”
The TGC also criticized the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) for “contradicting the concepts of the freedom of expression and press in a democratic society.”
“The shutting down of newspapers, magazines, agencies, internet news websites, publishing and printing houses and associations and foundations weren’t developments acceptable in terms of international human rights and concepts of law,” it said.
Meanwhile, prominent Turkish journalist Kadri Gürsel, who has been under arrest for over 200 days, sent a message to the International Press Institute (IPI), which he is a member of.
“They want to intimidate journalists,” Gürsel said in his message sent to the IPI annual media congress in Hamburg.
Gürsel’s message was read by his wife, Nazire Kalkan Gürsel, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish service reported on May 19.
Elsewhere, Council of Europe commissioner of human rights, Nils Muiznieks, urged Turkish authorities to abide by the practices of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as he commented on the situations of arrested journalists and human rights activists, Cumhuriyet reported on May 19.
Muiznieks especially mentioned the conviction of journalist Murat Çelikkan to 18 months in prison in the shut-down daily Özgür Gündem case over “making propaganda” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), saying that “the development is worrying.”
“Çelikkan’s conviction provides a worrying illustration of a continuing trend of judicial actions targeting human rights defenders and an increasingly wide range of other civil society actors,” Muiznieks said.