Monday, October 22, 2012

Turkey’s Not-So-Free Speech

October 22, 2012

For a long time, it has been possible to overlook Turkey’s human rights failures. After all, the country was making remarkable progress after starting from a very hard place. Now, however, ignoring such failures is no longer possible.

A 53-page report released Oct. 22 by the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists is the most detailed on Turkish media freedoms to date. It makes for shocking reading. As of Aug. 1, Turkey was holding at least 76 journalists in jail, the report found, while prosecutors were pursuing thousands of cases against other members of the news media.

Put another way, Turkey now has more imprisoned journalists than any other country, by a factor of just less than two. Iran comes second, with 42 incarcerations; Eritrea third, with 28; and China, a communist dictatorship with a population of 1.35 billion, comes fourth at 27.

It’s a lamentable record and in sharp contrast to the modern and tolerant image that Turkey’s leadership has projected over the past decade.

The reason for the new report is especially interesting. The committee had come under fire for reporting lower estimates of the number of jailed journalists than other human rights organizations. Turkey’s government has long maintained that only a handful of the journalists were charged with offenses related to their jobs, and because the CPJ hadn’t read all the indictments, it had erred on the side of caution.


Read the Report