Turkey’s Press Crackdown Unparalleled In Recent History

Turkey has recently surpassed China, Iran and Egypt in the number of imprisoned journalists as the crackdown on media outlets and journalists continues unabated. Only a decade ago, Turkey erased its name as a jailer of journalists, according to data by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

But the media freedom took a major blow this year as dozens of journalists were again put behind bars and nearly 130 media outlets were closed down. The arrest of journalists has accelerated since a failed coup attempt on July 15.

More than a hundred journalists were detained in the past 50 days and most of them remained imprisoned without any charges. More than 200 journalists are sought for arrest.

In 1990s and early 2000s, mostly Kurdish journalists were jailed and persecuted on charges of “spreading terrorist propaganda” or “insulting military.” As soon as the AKP came to power, the number of imprisoned journalists was significantly decreased. But the military was still powerful and the journalists in prison either worked for Kurdish papers or affiliated with far left-wing papers.

Between 2010 and 2012, the number of jailed journalists was again on the rise as Turkey kicked off infamous coup trials, investigations into Kurdish political organizations such as the KCK and left-wing groups. Several journalists were also locked up for criticizing the AKP government and the Gulen movement on charges of instigating instability and overthrowing the government.

Since 2013, prisons have started to fill with journalists who previously worked for Gulen-affiliated news organizations. As of September, at least 117 journalists were sitting in jail, according to a tally by press advocacy group Platform for Independent Journalism.