Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan celebrated Working Journalists’ Day on Jan. 10, saying that a press without restrictions was essential for democracy.
“The existence of a press, which is effective and capable of informing the public without any restrictions, is a prerequisite for a democratic and transparent society,” Erdoğan said in a statement.
“I believe that in the light of the lessons they have learned from the bad experiences, taking into account the social sensitivities, our media will prevent the dark forces from reaching their goals, they will no longer respect the domineering mentality that disregards the nation’s will and they will fulfil the duty of informing our people properly and impartially,” he said.
Turkish media has been particularly hard hit in a government crackdown following the July 2016 coup attempt. Dozens of journalists have been imprisoned or harassed with legal challenges and critical media outlets have been forced into self-censorship or shut down.
108 journalists are behind bars in Turkey while 172 journalists faced charges based on their journalistic work in 2019, according to a report on press freedom in 2019 by Utku Çakırözer, a deputy for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)
And, 60 journalists were detained and several journalists got fined over 500,000 lira ($85,000) last year, Çakırözer said.
Meanwhile, 34 journalists were attacked and Turkish authorities blocked access to over 36,000 websites, he said.
Turkey placed 157th out of 180 countries on World Press Freedom Index ranking in 2018 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Turkey remains to be the “world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists” according to the International Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR).