Turkey: Over a hundred journalists still jailed despite pandemic

According to the journalists' association DFG, eight media workers were arrested in Turkey in March. The working conditions of journalists have massively deteriorated in the corona crisis, and repression is intensifying.

The Dicle Fırat Journalists' Association (DFG, Dicle Fırat Gazeteciler Derneği) draws attention in its March report on press freedom in Turkey to the difficult working conditions of media workers in the corona crisis. Their task of informing the public about current developments requires them to continue their work under all circumstances, but journalists are exposed to a high risk due to inadequate protective measures.

The report highlights that: "In late February and early March, several journalists were detained and imprisoned. They were suddenly targeted for their coverage of the death of MIT members in Libya, which had previously been widely publicised. Employees of Oda TV, Yeni Yaşam Gazetesi and Yeniçağ daily were arrested during these investigations. Their only crime is to make public a fact that the state wanted to keep secret. Despite protests and contradictions, they are still held in prison. This action is a serious blow to the freedom of the press and expression.”

Discriminatory enforcement law

The DFG points out that the arrested journalists will be prosecuted under the anti-terrorism legislation and will therefore not be able to benefit from the planned amendment to the Prison Act. The draft law, which is to be passed this week in the Turkish parliament despite widespread criticism, provides for the release of approximately 90,000 prisoners and is also referred to as "Corona Amnesty". Political prisoners will be excluded from the amendment. "This means that the lives of our colleagues do not count", comments the Journalists' Association and calls for the indiscriminate application of the law: "All political prisoners and especially the imprisoned journalists must be released immediately".

Intensified repression in Corona times

The DFG report states that since the beginning of the corona crisis in Turkey on 11 March, there has been intensified action against reports in the social media. An unknown number of media professionals and private users of social media have been investigated for articles about the pandemic and hundreds of arrests have been made. "The state does not allow any dissenting voices and wants to silence the entire society," said the association.

March balance sheet

According to the DFG, 103 journalists are in prison in Turkey. In March, 15 journalists were detained and eight were remanded in custody. Investigations have been launched against twelve journalists, one journalist has been sued, five journalists have been sentenced to prison, and trials against 18 journalists are still ongoing. In addition, access to one website was banned and one journalist was dismissed.