AI calls on Turkey to release journalists from prison

Amnesty International called on Turkish authorities to release the journalists from pre-trial detention pending the review of the investigations.

Amnesty International expressed concerns at the recent spate of pre-trial detentions targeting eight journalists in Turkey, who join dozens of other journalists and media workers in prison for doing their jobs.

Six of the eight were remanded in relation to their reporting of the death and funeral of two alleged intelligence officers from the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT). Two others, Kurdish language RUDAW TV journalist Rawin Sterk Yıldız and chief editor for the news website Yakın Doğu Haber Alptekin Dursunoğlu were detained for their social media posts.

Turkey must end the targeting of independent journalists with the arbitrary use of anti-terrorism and other laws and uphold the right to freedom of expression which includes the right to give and receive information, said Amnesty International.

Highlights from the report by Amnesty International include the following;

“Amnesty International is deeply concerned that Law No. 2937 on National Intelligence Agency is being used to target journalists for political reasons, and in a manner which is likely to have a chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression. In this case all of the journalists that reported on the funerals of the two alleged intelligence officers killed in Libya were engaging in investigations following the public statement of president Erdogan on the deaths of unnamed ‘martyrs’ and following the public naming of the deceased by the opposition Member of Parliament Ümit Özdağ. The journalists published open source material readily available to anyone with the names provided by Ümit Özdağ MP, and many of them chose to redact the full names of the deceased.

There are limited circumstances in which states can restrict the right to freedom of expression. While these do include safeguarding national security, the Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information (Tshwane Principles) state that it can only be necessary to restrict the disclosure of information where there is “a real and identifiable risk of significant harm to a legitimate national security interest,” and even in such circumstances the “risk of harm from disclosure must outweigh the overall public interest in disclosure.“ In the current case, given that the journalists were reporting information that was already in the public domain, and given the significant public attention that had already been cast on the deaths, Amnesty International is deeply concerned that these prosecutions are unnecessary and disproportionate.”

Amnesty International called on the authorities in Turkey to reconsider whether prosecutions are necessary and proportionate in light of the strong public interest in investigating this story, and the journalists’ decision not to publish any material not already in the public domain, and release the journalists from pre-trial detention pending the review of the investigations.