One Free Press Coalition, a platform comprising prominent news organisations and publishers, listed jailed Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan in first place in its December ranking of 10 most urgent press freedom abuses, announced on Tuesday.
The journalist’s conviction to life in prison over charges of attempting to overthrow the government was changed to 10.5 years in prison for aiding a terrorist organisation in 2019, both charges stemming from Altan’s involvement in a failed coup attempt in July 2016, when he allegedly sent subliminal messages via a televised debate.
Altan’s lawyer said three adjoining cells to where the prominent journalist and novelist is currently staying housed inmates who had been displaying signs of COVID-19.
Apart from Altan, the list focuses on abuses related to COVID-19, with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) documenting 207 violations of press freedom globally, including instances of imprisonment, assault, legal threats and harassment.
At least two journalists, Honduran David Romero and Egyptian Mohamed Monir, died after contracting the deadly coronavirus in government custody. Another journalist, Azimjon Askarov, died in prison of complications his family suspects were COVID-19-related. The journalist was denied a test in Kyrgyzstan.
Turkey’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday rejected Altan’s appeal and said his arrest had not violated any of his rights. There is an outstanding appeal by the journalist at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), but the top European court has not heard the case since Altan’s appeal immediately after his original arrest in 2016.