If you work in journalism, be thankful you’re not working in Turkey. Journalism there is under attack at unprecedented levels.
The government has forced the closure of more than 170 broadcasters, newspapers, magazine and media-related companies. Courts have ordered censorship of more than 30 news websites. The government has revokes more than 300 press credentials and last week 9 journalists from the country’s oldest newspaper were arrested and sent to prison. IN total, more than 100 journalists have been arrested.
The latest arrests came after a Turkish anti-terrorism investigation claimed to link the journalists for a failed coup attempt earlier in the year. The country declared a State of Emergency which gives them powers to close any media organization by decree.
Journalists in custody are reporting horrific treatment. Here are five accounts reported on the Committee to Protect Journalists website this summer:
“They beat all of us while our hands were bound behind our backs. One of the policemen tried to take the contact lens from my eye out. I was hit with the butt of a gun,” Özgür Gündem‘s Sinan Balık told his employer.
“I was subjected to beatings and insults for 36 hours before I was put to the holding cell,” DİHA reporter Ender Öndeş said.
“They beat me in the face with their knees because my head was down,” Fırat Yeşilçınar of Özgür Gündem said.
“They threw me down the stairs with my hands cuffed behind my back,” Burcu Özkara, another of the newspaper’s reports, said. “I was kept in the police vehicle for seven hours. They told us, ‘You will see the power of the state and the Turk.'”
“I was pushed down the stairs from the second floor,” said Elif Aydoğmuş, also from Özgür Gündem. “A few of the police hit me. I lost consciousness due to the blows.”
It’s a different world in Turkey from what we Americans see. The Prime Minister’s office now has the power to censor media and it’s used that power in earnest since the failed coup attempt. When a bomb went off in the city of Elazig – killing 11 and injuring more than 200 – the government banned coverage of the event except for official statements.
It’s a mess there. Another newspaper reports that original prosecutor going after the journalists has himself need arrested and awaiting trial on claims he’s tied to the coup attempt. More than 1,200 academics were fired from their University jobs, many a them had signed a petition calling for peace.
The Guardian reports that more than 110,000 people – let that number sink in – have been detained or suspended in the aftermath of the coup. That group includes teachers, police, judges and other government workers.
“(Turkish President) Erdogan’s critics say he is using the coup as a pretext to quash the opposition. Ankara says the crackdown is necessary to root out terrorists.” – The Guardian
Turkish prosecutors are seeking long jail term or even life sentences for some of the journalists under arrest. It’s led to protest in the country and other European cities. In response, Turkish police have used water cannons and tear gas on crowds. Some of the protests have turned violent.
“You, as a government, you are trying to transform journalism into a crime, and you are trying to block the public’s right to information. The people can’t access the right information if even one newspaper is shut down, if even one journalist is arrested. They can’t get the right information.” – Baris Yarkadas in EuroNews
Cumhuriyet (one of Turkey’s major newspapers) former editor-in-chief Can Dundar, fled the country while on appeal for his arrest and sentencing to six years in prison for a story about a shipment of arms interception at the Syrian border.