ANKARA, Turkey (ViaNews) – On Wednesday, nearly 200 human rights activists gathered outside the courthouse in Istanbul to protest against the lack of press freedom in Turkey. The activists were holding signs saying “Free rights defenders”, “Freedom for journalists”, and “Independent press cannot be silenced.”
According to the Turkish Journalists’ Association, around 160 journalists are currently in jail in the country. The P24 Press Freedom Group states there are 171 journalists in Turkish jails. The advocacy group Stockholm Center for Freedom, goes even further by saying that after July 15, 2016, Turkey arrested 231 journalists.
Turkey is one of the world’s top jailer of journalists. They are allegedly being detained as part of a sweeping government crackdown on independent media, following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
The crackdown was part of a larger purge that allegedly forced hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey to resign from their jobs, being dismissed, or being detained without due process, under wide-ranging powers granted by a state of emergency that Turkey’s government continues to enforce.
During a police operation on October 31, 2016, at the Cumhuriyet Gazetesi, Kadri Gürsel was taken into custody along with many other newspaper employees. Mr Gürsel is a member of the International Press Institute (IPI) Executive Board and head of IPI’s Turkish National Committee.
On September 25, 2017, an Istanbul court ordered the release of veteran journalist Kadri Gürsel in the third hearing of the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet case.
Other journalists imprisoned in Turkey face a similar situation. Turkey’s government claims that their crimes have nothing to do with their profession. Nevertheless, the journalists deny allegations against themselves and their colleagues. As of yet, Turkey’s Constitutional Court has refused to review their detention.
“Each hearing of the Cumhuriyet case was historic because it showed how journalism could be defended and how empty the accusations were,” Gürsel stated.