Turkey – press freedom in figures
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has produced a figures-based overview of press freedom in Turkey, where the trial of RSF’s country representative, Erol Önderoğlu, is due to open on 3 February. Compiled with help from RSF’s local partner, Bianet, these figures show the scale of the crackdown since the failed coup in July 2016.
More than 200 journalists and media workers have been imprisoned in Turkey in the past five years. Thirteen of them are still being held. Turkey continues to be one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists.
A total of 48 journalists spent at least one day in police custody in 2020. The reasons for their arrests including referring to the fate of Syrian refugees, investigating the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, or covering the Kurdish issue.
27 and a half years
This is one of the longest prison sentences ever passed on a Turkish journalist. Can Dündar, the former editor of the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, was sentenced to 27 and a half years in prison on 23 December 2020 on charges of spying and assisting a terrorist organization. He was sentenced in absentia because he has been living in Germany ever since he was the target of a murder attempt in 2016. Dündar’s judicial problems began after he published a story about Turkish arms deliveries to Islamist groups in Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted by saying: “The person who wrote that exclusive article will pay dearly. I won’t let him get away with it.”
This is the age of Turkey’s oldest imprisoned journalist, Ahmet Altan, who is still being held in Silivri high security prison, near Istanbul, although the life sentences that he, his brother Mehmet Altan and another journalist, Nazli Ilicak, received in 2018 were overturned by the supreme court in July 2019. They were accused of sympathizing with the July 2016 coup attempt and of “transmitting subliminal messages on television.”
63 “lèse-majesté” convictions
This is the number of journalists convicted of “insulting the president” under article 299 of the criminal code since Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected president in August 2014. Journalists are also often convicted under the terrorism law, usually on a charge of supporting or being a member of an illegal organization. The law on banking and the law or capital markets are also used to prosecute and convict business reporters.
This is how much Turkey was told to pay in damages to eight Cumhuriyet journalists who were arbitrarily jailed for nearly a year in 2016. Issued on 10 November 2020, this was not the first ruling that the European Court of Human Rights has issued on Turkey. In the past five years, the ECHR has ordered the Turkish authorities to pay a total of 234,760 euros in compensation to journalists.
Turkey is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.
Turkish journalists have been the targets of at least 139 physical attacks in the past five years. At least 18 journalists were attacked in 2020 alone.
At least 160 media outlets have been forced to close. The state of emergency measures adopted after the 2016 coup attempt were used not only to shut down media regarded as sympathetic to religious leader Fethullah Gülen, the coup attempt’s alleged mastermind, but also to silence pro-Kurdish media such as IMC TV and left-wing media such as Hayatin Sesi TV. Both of these media outlets have been waging a legal battle for nearly five years to be allowed to resume broadcasting.
This is the percentage of Turkish media outlets that are nowadays controlled by pro-government businessmen.
This is the number of online articles or links to articles that were deleted in 2020 on orders issued by local magistrates in response to requests from President Erdogan, his son Bilal Erdogan, his son-in-law Berat Albayrak, pro-government businessmen or politicians.
A total of 3,436 journalists have been fired from Turkish media outlets in the past five years. The number fired in 2020 was 215.
This is the number of days that critical newspapers were denied state advertising during 2020, depriving them of the revenue they need to survive.