Turkey named one of the “Worst Jailers of Journalists” on Press Freedom Day


IFJ staff deliver a letter to the Turkish embassy in Brussels to raise concerns about the number of journalists imprisoned in the country.

On World Press Freedom Day the International Federation of Journalists put forward a statement calling out the worst jailers of journalists – China, Iran, Eritrea, and Turkey.

“The only thing they (the journalists) are guilty of is fulfilling their professional duty as journalists to inform the public,” said the letters.

“We urge your Government to end this climate of fear and intimidation facing journalists and to release from jail dozens of journalists, writers and trade unionists.”

The news source Deutsche Welle documented World Press Freedom Day and said that

Because of the crucial role that journalists play, they are frequent targets of violence. According to UNESCO, more than 600 journalists have been killed over the past decade. In addition, journalists in some regions are surveilled and intimidated, or subjected to cyberattacks…In countries [like Turkey], the courts are a preferred venue for silencing journalists who seek to publicize information that opposes the interests of the powerful.

While Turkey claims to serve as a model for the Middle East in terms of upholding “democratic ideals”, its crackdown on journalists serves to conceal the issues most sensitive to the government. The Turkish Union of Journalists estimates that at least 66 journalists are in prison in Turkey. Turkey’s anti-terror law is often used to suppress journalists seeking to highlight Turkey’s violation of human rights. Kurdish journalists and journalists sympathetic to the Kurdish cause are particularly vulnerable. In conjunction with the European Federation of Journalists, a campaign called “Set Journalists Free in Turkey” seeks to bring attention to the plight of the press in Turkey and to put pressure on the government to let its journalists free.

The Alliance for Kurdish Rights has documented many cases of abuse against journalists. In September 2012, Turkey arrested 44 “pro-Kurdish” journalists, and in March the same year, an award winning pro-Kurdish newspaper was banned for one month.

The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 to be World Press Freedom Day to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and marking the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in 1991.