RSF has asked five of the European Parliament’s groups to write to five imprisoned Turkish journalists. They are Nazlı Ilıcak and her colleague Şahin Alpay, who are both more than 70 and have been held since late July; cartoonist Musa Kart and columnist Kadri Gürsel, who were arrested in late October; and Ahmet Şık, an investigative journalist who, like Kart and Gürsel, worked for the independent daily Cumhuriyet. He was arrested in late December.
Turkey is now the world’s biggest prison for journalists, with around 100 currently detained. Most of them were arrested under the state of emergency that was declared after an abortive coup attempt in July 2016 and most of them have not yet been tried.
Dozens of the journalists are subjected to a harsh form of solitary confinement in Section 9 of a high security prison in the Istanbul suburb of Silivri. On 31 March, an Istanbul court ordered the conditional release of 21 of them, but it was blocked at the last moment by an application from the prosecutor’s office and new charges.
“Journalism is criminalized in Turkey today,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “An editorial policy critical of President Erdoğan suffices to be jailed on a terrorism charge and denied any effective recourse. We reiterate our demand for the immediate release of all journalists imprisoned in connection with their work and the repeal of decrees issued under the state of emergency that legalize arbitrary actions and trample on free speech.”
Turkey is ranked 151st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index. The already disturbing media situation in Turkey has become critical under the state of emergency declared in the wake of last July’s failed coup.
Around 150 media outlets have been liquidated by decree. At least 775 press cards and hundreds of journalists’ passports have been cancelled without any judicial proceedings. And censorship of the Internet and online social networks has reached unprecedented levels.