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Turkish Journalists Faced with Lawsuits, Fines and Jail: Report

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A report published Monday by Turkish independent media website Bianet said that in 2021, the Turkish government mobilized supposedly self-regulating and impartial institutions to bring critical, investigative and curious journalists and media to their knees.

the BIA Media Monitor 2021 Report said 35 journalists in Turkey were sentenced to a total of 92 years in prison in 2021.

The charges included “insulting the president”, “belonging to a [illegal or terrorist] organization”, “obtaining and disclosing confidential documents” or “espionage” under the Turkish penal code, or “propaganda for a terrorist organization” under the country’s anti-terrorism law.

Eight journalists in 2021 and 70 journalists over the past five years have been found guilty of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The report notes that Turkey has been the world’s worst jailer of journalists in years and that the government has relied even more heavily on judicial oversight of the media in 2021.

State institutions charged with overseeing and regulating the media continued to target independent journalists and media houses in a media landscape where 90 percent of national media outlets are government-controlled, according to the report.

He noted that newspapers, including Universal, Szc, Republic, Intrepid, One day, Decision, national newspaper, new age and New Asia were banned from running ads for public institutions in 2021, depriving them of revenue.

He also said that the Supreme Radio and Television Council, RTUK, had imposed fines on media outlets that broadcast critical or questioning programs such as Fox TV, Halk TV, Tele1 and KRT. In total, broadcasters were fined 31,630,000 Turkish liras – more than two million euros – in 2021.

According to the report, 56 journalists were physically assaulted and 41 journalists were detained by police, mostly while covering public events such as protests.

Government censorship, particularly of online media, also continued in 2021.

A total of 975 online news articles were censored in 2021 and 5,976 articles were censored in the past five years, according to data collected for the report.

Thirty-six journalists have won cases against Turkey before the European Court of Human Rights, receiving more than 114,000 euros in compensation in 2021.

Turkey ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in 2021 in the latest press freedom index published by monitoring organization Reporters Without Borders.

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