Turkey drops heavily in press freedom rankings

Turkey drops heavily in press freedom rankings

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey drops heavily in press freedom rankings

The escalation of judicial harassment of journalists and anti-terrorism laws are listed among the reasons that determine Turkey’s ranking in the list, the report says. Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists Association currently lists 95 journalists in prison. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Turkey took a big step backwards in press freedom rankings losing 10 places to be 148th out of 178 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) World Press Freedom Index for 2011 made public yesterday.

Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan came right at the bottom of the 10th annual list by the press freedom group, with the same clutch of European states - led by Finland, Norway and Estonia - at the top. Turkey’s fall came as a result of the pressure against journalists and media outlets.

“Far from carrying out promised reforms, the judicial system launched a wave of arrests on journalists that was without precedent since the military dictatorship,” the report said on Turkey.

According to the report, 2011 saw an escalation in the judicial harassment of journalists in Turkey, “despite the diversity and energy of its media.” The RSF also criticized the country’s anti-terrorism laws.

“Under the pretext of combating terrorism, dozens were jailed before being tried, above all in the investigations into the Ergenekon conspiracy and the KCK [Kurdistan Communities Union], an alleged political offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK),” the report said. “The unprecedented extension in the range of arrests, the massive phone taps and the contempt shown for the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, have helped to reintroduce a climate of intimidation in the media.”

Ergenekon is an alleged ultranationalist, shadowy gang accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup initially by spreading chaos and mayhem. It is also thought to be an extension of or a different name for the “deep state,” which is an alleged unofficial organization of bureaucracy and military operating behind the scenes of the official state structure. The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

This year’s index saw many changes in the rankings that reflect a year in which many media organizations paid dearly for their coverage of popular uprisings against veteran autocratic leaders, RSF said.

“Control of news and information continued to tempt governments and to be a question of survival for totalitarian and repressive regimes,” said the Paris-based group.

RSF said it was no surprise that the same trio of countries - Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan - were bottom of the list because they were “absolute dictatorships that permit no civil liberties”.

“They are immediately preceded at the bottom by Syria, Iran and China, three countries that seem to have lost contact with reality as they have been sucked into an insane spiral of terror,” it said.