There are 64 journalists under arrest and another 123 are facing trial on charges of terrorism, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) has announced, with the party’s leader underlining that Turkey ranks 154th out of 179 countries in media freedom.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu released the outcome of the party’s research into all journalists that have been facing prosecution, presenting the “Report on Imprisoned Journalists” today at a press conference at the party’s headquarters.
Kılıçdaroğlu also referred to the Turkey Journalists’ Labor Union’s (TGS) July 22 assessment that 59 journalists had been removed from post for their news reports on the Gezi Park unrest.
“We are experiencing a process in which the government and the police audits together, [in which] the media bosses are under the rule of political authority and publish the news that the political authority accepts,” he said, adding that those in power, as well as media bosses, were also instituting censorship or driving journalists to engage in self-censorship. “We have gone 105 years back in time.”
Even during the aftermath of the Sept. 12, 1980, coup, only 31 journalists were arrested, Kılıçdaroğlu said, calling the government’s current attitude on the matter a “police state mentality.”
“Mr. Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] has turned the country into a half-open penitentiary and made it impossible to live for journalists,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, while noting the approach of Journalism Day, which is marked on July 24 in Turkey.
“Journalism is a public duty. Only in a country in which a journalist can work freely can we talk about democracy,” he said. “I call out to media bosses: Leave the kitchen of the newspaper alone, when you apply censorship on them, when you lay them off from work, someday we will bring you to account,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
The CHP took up the matter following a joint press conference between Erdoğan and visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in February in which the former responded to a German correspondent’s question about arrested journalists by saying: “The number of arrested journalists is not more than the number of fingers on one’s hand. Those journalists were not arrested for their journalism.”
CHP deputies Veli Ağbaba, Özgür Özel and Nurettin Demir, who conducted the survey, also attended today’s press conference.