In eight years almost 6’000 journalists tried in Turkey’s courts: report

A report prepared by a lawmaker from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has revealed that a total of 5,898 journalists were put on trial between 2009 and 2017.

The T24 news portal reported on Wednesday that the CHP’s Istanbul MP Gamze Akkus Ilgezdi released the text entitled “Media and Freedom Report (2009-2017)” on the occasion of July 24, known as “Journalists and Press Day” in Turkey.

In the late Ottoman period, newspapers started reporting without any censorships for the first time on July 24, 1908, after Abdul Hamid II declared the 2nd Constitutional Monarchy.

Ilgezdi, as well as many other press unions and organizations, have argued that there is nothing to celebrate in Turkey on July 24 anymore since a record number of journalists in the country are currently imprisoned, sentenced or facing trial.

The lawmaker stated in the report that 1,526 journalists were convicted between 2009 and 2017, which amounts to 26 percent of the 5,898 journalists, who had faced trial within those eight years.

“According to the data of the Justice Ministry, Turkey’s Chief Public Prosecutors’ Offices have started proceedings against a total of 13, 227 journalists between 2009-2017, over suspicion of violating no 5187 Press Law,” the report indicated.

Within the same period of time, 13 journalists were tried as defendants every week. The number of journalists on trial reached 1,108 in 2013 when Gezi Park protests took place.

The Gezi demonstrations began in the summer of 2013 with a small group of people protesting against the urban development plan for Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul, a city with very limited green space.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that protests, which swiftly spread across the country, aimed to topple his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

The report also noted that the number of convicted journalists increased by 47 percent in 2017, while the number of those acquitted declined by 51 percent compared to the previous year.

While 82 journalists were convicted in 2009, that figure rose by 160 percent to 213 in 2017, Ilgezdi’s report also said.

Minors charged for breaching press law

From 2003 to 2017, two children under age 15 and 87 people between ages 15 and 17 had been filed against on suspicion of violating the Press Law.

The CHP MP also underlined that the Justice Ministry did not release the annual data about the case files regarding the Press Law in 2018 “in order to hide the injustices people currently face in Turkey.”

“The ruling power’s harsh tone against the journalists [in Turkey] increasingly continues,” the MP said in the report, adding that at least 1,732 journalists became unemployed in the first year after the country’s new presidential rule that allows one person to hold all authority.

“The profession of journalism is being done under circumstances that have gradually become harder and harder every day, with increasing oppression, censorship, dismissals, and imprisonment.

Greetings to those press laborers who defend the honor of the job and people’s right to impartial news even under these circumstances,” she concluded.

Turkish Journalists’ Union (TGS) also released a press statement on Wednesday and listed the reasons why July 24 has lost its meaning in today’s Turkey.

“A total of 134 journalists are currently in prison, Turkey ranks 157th in [2019] World Press Freedom Index [of Reporters Without Borders (RSF)], hundreds of journalists’ press credentials were canceled [by AKP], the political power controls 95 percent of the media and those who do online journalism have no security,” TGS explained.

The union added: “It must be remembered that all people in Turkey will win when censorship on media is eliminated, oppression on journalists ended, our colleagues in jail are freed and media is able to carry out its function as the fourth estate.”

“Only when journalists lay claim to their rights and the society lays claim to the news, July 24 will then be a day to celebrate for us,” TGS underlined.

According to the data released by Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (CGD), 318 press members were detained with 103 of them being arrested pending trial in a year after the failed military coup attempt targeting Erdogan’s AKP government on July 15, 2016.

Most of those journalists were blamed and sentenced for “aiding” the Gulen movement led by the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Ankara of orchestrating the putsch bid.

The Turkish government also regards Gulen and his followers as terrorists.

The allegations about the coup and terror-related activities have been strongly denied by Gulen and members of his faith-based movement.

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