OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media calls on Turkey to decriminalize journalistic work following arrest of Die Welt journalist

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media calls on Turkey to decriminalize journalistic work following arrest of Die Welt journalist

VIENNA, 1 March 2017 – The arrest of a Die Welt journalist in Turkey is yet another reminder of the current critical situation of media freedom and free expression in that country, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović said today.

“I am greatly concerned by the arrest of Deniz Yücel, and by the severe charges accusing him of propaganda in support of a terrorist organization and inciting the public to violence,” Mijatović said. “His case is another striking example of the current critical state of media freedom in Turkey, where close to 150 journalists are in prison for doing their work.”

Yücel was detained on 14 February and was formally arrested on 27 February.

“Fully recognizing the challenges and the terrorist threats that Turkey is facing, and once again condemning the attempted coup, it is time for the constant purge against critical voices to stop,” Mijatović said.

She noted the continuing decline of the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and of media freedom in Turkey over the last several months and once again urged the authorities to reverse their approach toward critical voices without delay and release those in prison for their journalistic work.

“We see outstanding journalists such as Ahmet Şık and Kadri Gürsel imprisoned for months,” the Representative said. “Neither last year’s coup attempt nor the existing security threats could justify silencing critical voices in the country.”

Award-winning investigative journalist Ahmet Şık was arrested on 30 December, while International Press Institute board member Kadri Gürsel, recently nominated for the 2017 UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, was arrested on 31 October 2016. Together with many other arrested journalists, they are held under highly difficult circumstances with very limited rights to communicate with people outside prison.

Mijatović said that more than 100 journalists were imprisoned after the coup attempt in July 2016, some of them reportedly held under alarming conditions and without access to proper health care. She reiterated that dozens of journalists have been attacked since last summer, more than 150 media outlets have been closed, more than 10,000 members of the media lost their jobs and thousands are currently awaiting trial for their critical tweets or other social media posts.

“I call on the Turkish authorities not to delay this much-needed shift in their approach, to respect their obligations on freedom of the media and to start by freeing journalists and allowing journalists currently on trial to defend themselves as free persons,” Mijatović said, once again offering her Office’s assistance to the authorities of Turkey in embarking on this important process.

 

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