May 2, 2017

Journalism is not a crime: Crackdown on media freedom in Turkey


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Since the failed coup attempt in July 2016, at least 156 media outlets have been shut down and an estimated 2,500 journalists and other media workers have lost their jobs. Journalists have been arrested and charged with terrorism offences as a result of posts they have shared on Twitter, cartoons they have drawn or opinions they expressed. This is taking place within the context of a wider crackdown against perceived government critics which has seen 47,000 people remanded in prison and more than 100,000 public sector employees summarily dismissed.

Journalist Mahir Kanaat was arrested with six colleagues on Christmas day. “My hands were tied behind my back and a ‘special team’ [police officer] was on top of me. I shouted ‘my wife is nine months pregnant, why are you making her lay down’ and tried to get up. There was a scuffle, I was kicked in the face.” Kanaat’s wife gave birth to their son while he was in detention. He is still in prison awaiting trial.

Former newspaper editor Ahmet Altan was detained in September 2016 along with his brother, academic Mehmet Altan. They were accused of ‘sending subliminal messages’ to the coup plotters during a TV panel discussion on the eve of the coup attempt. The program’s presenter, Nazlı Ilıcak, was also arrested and remains in pre-trial detention.

Investigative journalist, Ahmet Şik, has been remanded in custody since December. In the indictment against him, eight tweets, two interviews and an article were listed as evidence of his aiding three separate proscribed groups, all of which have totally different, often opposing, agendas. His wife Yonca told Amnesty International: “Ahmet’s imprisonment is a message to others: ‘Speak out if you dare’.”