TURKEY: After new wave of media freedom violations, SEEMO criticizes Turkish authorities

TURKEY, TURKEY, 21/02/2017, 08:25

Vienna, 21 February 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed its criticism of institutions in Turkey after another rise in violations against journalists.

Since 14 February Deniz Yucel (Deniz Yücel), a German-Turkish journalist, correspondent for German newspaper Die Welt, is in police custody: According to the regulations of the state of emergency, he can be held in police custody for up to 14 days without a hearing before a judge. Yucel presented himself at police headquarters to answer investigators’ questions after being sought out in connection to a hacker scandal and publishing of emails from the private email account of Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak.

The information was reported by a number of outlets and more than six journalists have so far been detained in relation to this case. Yucel was accused of allegedly “being a member of a terrorist organization, disseminating terrorist propaganda and misuse of data”.

On the same evening of 14 February, pro-Kurdish journalist Selahattin Aslan was detained by airport security after his arrival from Diyarbakir to Istanbul. According to sources, Aslan is being held at the Istanbul Department of Police, and his investigation details are unavailable due to a confidentiality order that was issued.

On 17 February, satirical magazine Girgir was closed after the paper published a caricature of the Prophet Moses on its cover page. The caricaturist and all other employees have been laid off.  An investigation has been launched on the charges of "insulting religious values adopted by a group of people" which is in the Turkish Criminal Code (Article 216).

According to representatives of the Turkish opposition, the number of jailed journalists has exceeded 150. "More Turkish journalists are currently in jail than were in prison under junta rule in the 1980s", main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu from  the CHP ("Republican People's Party") said. According to SEEMO evidence, Turkey also closed down more than 140 media outlets since the attempted coup in July 2016.

“We harshly condemn the behavior and actions of authorities in Turkey towards journalists” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated today. “Arrests, detentions, legal charges and other pressures are nothing more but a form of intimidation committed by the very same institutions that ought to protect journalists and their rights. We call on them to drop charges and release all media workers that are currently in detention or awaiting trial on charges of belonging to a terrorist group and similar absurdities. There is no justice if legal processes against journalists are not transparent and truthful. The only weapon journalists use is their word, so these brutal retaliations against them concern us continuously” Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

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