Five more journalists jailed in Turkey bringing total imprisoned by Erdogan regime to more than 150

Five journalists standing accused of participating in “terrorist propaganda” were handed jail terms in Istanbul yesterday, bringing the total of jailed journalists in the country to over 150 since July 2016’s failed coup.

Four of the condemned journalists received 18-month sentences for taking part in a solidarity campaign with Kurdish daily Ozgur Gundem.

Ragıp Duran, Ayşe Düzkan, Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hüseyin Bektaş were jailed for engaging in the ‘editor for a day’ campaign from May to August 2016 in support of media pluralism. Ozgur Gundem’s editor-in-chief, Hüseyin Aykol was sentenced to three years and nine months on the grounds of prior convictions.

The Kurdish paper was shut down in August 2016, when police raided its Istanbul headquarters for allegedly acting as a “mouthpiece” for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).  Some 150 media outlets have been shut down since the July 2016 coup attempt.

According to Bianet news, 20 journalists, writers and intellectuals have been convicted in connection with the campaign. Most have been fined or given suspended sentences and, until now, only two have been given jail sentences.

Turkey now holds the world record for the number of professional journalists detained, ranking 155th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) Press Freedom Index.

Johann Bihr, head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said: “The aim of the Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign was to defend media freedom and pluralism.

“Treating its participants as criminals is designed solely to intimidate Turkish civil society at a time when the need for action is greater than ever. We call on the courts to overturn all the convictions in connection with this campaign and to abandon the prosecutions still pending.”

According to RSF, more figures are being prosecuted for their role in the campaign.

This includes RSF’s Turkey representative, Erol Önderoğlu, who is being tried with Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the head of the Turkey Human Rights Foundation (TIHV), and the writer Ahmet Nesin. The three are the only ones involved to have been placed in pre-trial detention for their part in the campaign, and were held for ten days in June 2016.

Last week, the penal courts rejected a ruling to release two journalists jailed for over a year. 

Picture: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

 

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