Debate on press freedom in Turkey – or lack there of – continues on World Press Freedom Day, with Turkish NGOs and foreign dignitaries slamming Ankara once more as the main opposition CHP’s head warns of creeping totalitarianism.
“Turkey’s restrictions on the media include the use of taxes and imprisonment against journalists and media owners,” former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said May 1 at an event in Istanbul. “There’s simply no such thing as a one-party democracy.”
Another senior U.S. diplomat also lamented the current predicament of journalists. “Losing your job for doing your job is wrong,” said Douglas Frantz.
But Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was adamant about Turkey’s press freedom. “Press freedom in Turkey is freer than both countries called ‘partly free’ and countries called ‘free.’ We expect our journalists to reject this report,” Davutoğlu said.
43 journalists still in prison amid increasing pressure from the government, the Vienna-based International Press Institute’s (IPI) National Committee in Turkey (BED) said in a statement on May 2, a day ahead of the holiday.
Among the “bitter facts presenting a dark picture,” BED listed the journalists fired from their jobs, wiretapped by police, targeted in campaigns of character assassination or forced into self-censorship, all because of their critical coverage.
“Censorship, which has been intensified with court rulings and legal complaints, even leads to the removal of political speeches by opposition figures from news websites, although there is no doubt that they are newsworthy,” the statement said.
Turkey’s Journalists Association (TGC) also criticized the country’s stance against the freedom of expression, with 40 publishers and reporters behind bars.
“Journalists, who work for the public’s right to know the truth, are welcoming World Press Freedom Day under heavy pressure,” the statement said.