Turkey fails to improve press freedom record: Reporters Without Borders

Turkey fails to improve press freedom record: Reporters Without Borders

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey fails to improve press freedom record: Reporters Without Borders

This file picture shows a protest in Istanbul against the imprisonment of journalists. DAILY NEWS photo

Turkey has failed to make any improvements in its press freedom record and continues to rank among the “world’s biggest prisons for journalists,” according to the latest index released by Paris-based media group Reporters Without Borders (RWB). 

Turkey ranked 154th out of 180 countries surveyed in the World Press Freedom Index released by RWB on Feb. 12, behind war-torn nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Despite its regional aspirations, Turkey registered no improvement and continues to be one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists,” said the report. 

The Gezi Park protests, which initially started last May against a construction plan in the heart of Istanbul and spread across the country after the harsh police crackdowns, increased self-censorship across the media, the report added.

“The Gezi Park revolt highlighted the repressive methods used by the security forces, the increase in self-censorship and the dangers of the prime minister’s populist discourse,” said the report. 

“2014 is likely to be a decisive year for the future of civil liberties in Turkey,” it also said, citing the upcoming local elections and the unpredictability of the peace process on the long-running Kurdish issue.

In Turkey, dozens of journalists have been detained on the pretext of the “fight against terrorism,” above all those who cover the Kurdish issue, the RWB report added.

Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway, like last year. At the other end of the index, the bottom three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent, state the RWB on its website. 

The crisis in Syria (unchanged at 177th) has had dramatic repercussions throughout the region, reinforcing media polarization in Lebanon (106th, -4), encouraging the Jordanian authorities to tighten their grip, and accelerating the spiral of violence in Iraq (153rd, -2), where tension between Shiites and Sunnis is growing.

In Iran (173rd, +2), one of the Middle East’s key countries, there has so far been no implementation of the promises to improve freedom of information made by the new president, Hassan Rouhani. 
Meanwhile, countries that pride themselves on being democracies and respecting the rule of law have not set an example, according to the report. This is been the case in the United States (46th), which fell 13 places, one of the most significant declines, amid increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks. 

The United Kingdom (33rd, -3) distinguished itself in the war on terror by the disgraceful pressure it put on The Guardian newspaper, said the report, adding that both the U.S. and U.K. authorities seem obsessed with hunting down whistleblowers instead of adopting legislation to rein in abusive surveillance practices that negate privacy.

Good news came in the form of declines in violence against journalists, direct censorship and misuse of judicial proceedings in Panama (87th, +25), the Dominican Republic (68th, +13), Bolivia (94th, +16) and Ecuador (94th, +25), although in Ecuador the level of media polarization is still high and often detrimental to public debate, according to the index.