Scores of journalists, the highest number in the world, are being put behind bars in Turkey.
The media crackdown is the result of an attempted coup last July in which 200 people died and over 1,400 were injured. The jailed reporters are caught in a quagmire as they face legal limbo and deal with made-up charge sheets, inhumane treatment, and solitary confinement.
According to the opposition, Republican People’s Party, the CHP, since the coup attempt: 152 journalists have been locked up, and 173 media outlets have been shut, including newspapers, magazines, radio stations, websites and news agencies.
Over 2,500 journalists have been laid off because of the closures and 800 have had their press credentials revoked, with many also having their passports confiscated, but the government has only acknowledged that 30 journalists are in prison. The rest, according to Erdogan, are terrorists.
“Only two of the 177 people in prison who declared their profession to be journalism have yellow press cards. One of these 177 is in prison for murder, while the rest are there because of their ties to terrorist organizations," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement.
The human rights groups have repeatedly urged the government to release all journalists. Many Kurdish outlets have been shut or have reopened up with different names after being accused of propaganda on behalf of the PKK.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in 2016, Turkey accounted for a third of all journalists imprisoned worldwide.
Journalists in Turkey have been historically tried for reporting the facts during successive military regimes, including that of Erdogan’s AKP government. In the past decade, Erdogan himself has sued thousands of critics for insulting him, many of them being journalists.
The evidence against those detained is not enough but is often linked to the Gülen’s movement.
The indictments against many known journalists, including the Altan brothers, a pair of prominent columnists who have been held in pretrial detention since their arrest in September, and Nazli Ilicak, include their professional contacts and correspondence with suspected Gülen supporters as proof of their guilt, PRI reported.
“All my relationships with the people that you mention were within the framework of my job as a journalist,” Ilicak said in her defense statement last Monday, her voice rising in anger. At the time she spoke with them, she added, “they were not yet declared members of a terrorist organization.”
There is no escape as even the judges who rule in favor of defendants who are somehow tied to the coup are often at risk of losing their jobs."
Earlier this year, a court ordered the release of several journalists but the decision was reversed, following the suspension of the judges involved.