2015… A Difficult Year for Journalism

Journalists and human right activists protest in front of the courthouse in Istanbul on November, 2011. Source: CNN

Journalists and human right activists protest in front of the courthouse in Istanbul on November, 2011. Source: CNN

According to a report published by the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) “Turkey’s average unemployment rate in the press doubled, 500 journalists were fired and 70 others were physically attacked in 2015”.

“The greatest threats against journalists have been lawsuits filed against them and imprisonment,” while 200 news sited were blocked at some time in 2015 and multiple TV channels were removed from the digital platform.

“Journalists were targeted in rallies as well as on social media,” while “there are currently 30 journalists who have been imprisoned.” Cumhuriyet daily’s Can Dündar and Erdem Gül were arrested in November 2015 under terrorism and espionage charges. Furthermore, foreign journalists have not been exempt; with three VICE News journalists being detained in south east Turkey in September 2015, one of whom, Mohammed Rasool was only just released on bail from a maximum security prison, after spending four months incarcerated.

The Turkish people went twice this year to the voting polls and according to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the “process was hindered by challenging security environment, incidents of violence and restrictions against media”. Freedom House has made similar statements, further arguing that freedom of press is in Turkey is worsening year by year.

Members of the ruling party AKP have publicly verbally attacked journalists; the most infamous case being that of AKP MP Abrurrahim Boynukalın, who was recorded arguing that “Our mistake was that we never beat them in the past”. This statement was later followed by a seemingly politically motivated physical attack on Hürriyet’s columnist Ahmet Hakan by unknown assailants.

In November 2015, more than 50 international media editors wrote an open letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan raising concerns about the deteriorating conditions for press freedom in Turkey. There is also an ongoing vigil being held outside Silivri prison, demanding the release of imprisoned journalists. PEN International has demanded that Turkish authorities drop the charges against Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, whose arrests sparked growing attention on concerning attacks against journalists in Turkey.

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