Dozens of demonstrators including representatives of international nongovernmental organizations gathered at Downing Street on Tuesday calling for the release of more than 200 journalists in Turkey’s prisons as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Erdoğan began his three-day state visit to the UK on Sunday where he has been facing demonstrations due to ongoing human rights violations in Turkey and the silencing of the media.
Valerie Peay, director of the International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR), a nonprofit NGO that works to end human rights violations worldwide, attended the “Free Turkey Media” protests on Tuesday outside 10 Downing Street to call on May to address President Erdoğan’s crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey.
Some protestors held posters depicting Turkish journalists who are behind bars.
In the meantime, a brawl reportedly erupted between a group of protestors demonstrating against Erdoğan and a group of Erdoğan’s supporters at Downing Street before Erdoğan’s meeting with May on Tuesday.
Erdoğan’s crackdown on the media culminated with a failed coup attempt that took place on July 15, 2016. Dozens of journalists have been put behind bars in the aftermath of the coup attempt on trumped-up coup or terrorism charges.
Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) show that 254 journalists and media workers were in jail as of May 8, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 192 were under arrest pending trial while only 62 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Erdoğan’s visit to the UK comes as Turkey is holding snap presidential and general elections on June 24, nearly one-and-a-half years before the scheduled time.