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Journalists targeted in Turkey due to serious earthquake, election coverage in 2023: report

Journalists targeted in Turkey due to serious earthquake, election coverage in 2023: report


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the press during his visit to the city of Kahramanmaras in southeastern Turkey, two days after a strong earthquake struck the region, on February 8, 2023. – Many took refuge from the continuing aftershocks, cold rain and snow in mosques, schools and even bus shelters – Burning debris in Trying to keep warm, after the earthquake, which is the largest earthquake Turkey has witnessed since 1939. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP)

A report by the Council of Europe's Journalist Safety Platform showed that journalists in Turkey have been subjected to interrogation, intimidation and arrest, while several television stations have been fined over their critical coverage of presidential and parliamentary elections in May and two devastating earthquakes. The Turkish Mint newspaper reported that the strike struck Türkiye on February 6 last year.

The report, “Press Freedom in Europe: Time to Turn the Tide,” released on Tuesday, presents the annual assessment of threats to media freedom and the safety of journalists in Europe in 2023.

The platform aims to strengthen the Council of Europe's response to threats and hold Member States accountable through the report, which assesses the main issues undermining press freedom such as threats, intimidation, arrest, restrictive legislation, abusive lawsuits, media capture and attacks on public media.

According to the report, after the February earthquakes, journalists sent to devastated cities in southern Turkey were targeted simply for doing their work, in circumstances where access to reliable information could be a matter of life and death.

The report also said that Turkey's broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), fined Halk TV and TELE1 5% of their annual revenues and FOX TV Türkiye 3% “on vague charges”, with the next five episodes of Halk suspended. Television and TELE1 programs that broadcast criticism of the government's efforts to prepare for the earthquake and rescue efforts.

The report stated that Turkey followed a wave of arrests targeting pro-Kurdish circles that began in 2022, when 13 media professionals were arrested in a large-scale police operation conducted in 21 Turkish cities, including Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, on charges of alleged membership in the PKK. and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey and much of the international community listed as a terrorist group, on April 25, in the run-up to the May elections.

Most were released after several days in police custody, while many are awaiting trial which could expose them to long prison sentences, according to the report, which added that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has also used its governmental powers to deny justice to its opponents. Access to public media.

The platform also reported that national security in Turkey has been invoked to justify the imprisonment of journalists, including extremism or terrorism charges against journalists with alleged links to the PKK.

The report also said that vague legal grounds could easily be “used” to censor legitimate forms of expression and public debate in Turkey, referring to the country's October 2022 law that enacted new grounds for prosecution by imposing prison sentences for spreading “misinformation” about security. . And the public order and public health of the country, which causes anxiety, fear or panic.

“Every quarter for the past 20 years, an average of 200 journalists have been brought before the courts under Turkey's anti-terrorism legislation or criminal law in relation to their work. 'Lèse majeste' provisions have also been used to prosecute journalists for insulting the president.

Meanwhile, Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, appealed to Turkish authorities to change the restrictive framework of freedom of expression and freedom of the media in a detailed memorandum published on Tuesday.

The memorandum addresses decades of concern about the shrinking space for democratic debate in Turkey, focuses on judicial harassment of journalists, academics and citizens, and criticizes in particular the extensive use of Turkey's penal code and anti-terrorism law to repress journalists, academics and citizens. freedom of expression.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has come under strong pressure on social media over what his critics see as a slow response to the largest earthquakes Turkey has seen in nearly a century.

The government was mainly accused of failing to mobilize a sufficient number of people for relief efforts and a lack of coordination between teams, which led to civilians in some areas trying to pull their loved ones out of the rubble themselves, only to find them freezing to death despite sustaining injuries. There were no serious injuries in the collapse.

The government has also been criticized for failing to provide safe shelter for earthquake survivors and meet their basic needs, although there are ongoing relief efforts in Turkey and abroad for earthquake survivors.

Human rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, eliminating media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory powers to exert financial pressure, especially since President Erdogan survived a failed crisis. Coup in July 2016

Turkey ranks 165th in the World Press Freedom Index for 2023 issued by Reporters Without Borders, out of 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

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