National Press Club

NPC expresses outrage as Turkey becomes top jailer of journalists

February 12, 2013 | By Jeff Plungis |

The National Press Club expressed grave concerns Feb. 12 regarding reports that the government of Turkey is using anti-terrorism laws to jail more working journalists than any other country in the world.

All told, 42 journalists and four media assistants are incarcerated in Turkey, more than in Iran, China or any other country known for repression of the press, according to Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy organization for journalists. In addition, the group is reviewing whether more than two dozen other people in Turkish jails may also be media professionals.

The large number of imprisoned journalists, most of whom represent Kurdish media, is a result of a broad and vaguely-worded security law, according to the Paris-based organization, which calls Turkey "the world's biggest prison for journalists."

"It's not a crime to write about a government's failings," said Press Club President Angela Greiling Keane. "The 3,500 members of the National Press Club stand with their colleagues in Turkey in calling for the government to free its jailed journalists. Terrorism laws can't be a ruse to put reporters behind bars."

The Committee to Protect Journalists says the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has routinely branded critics as terrorists. An extensive review by the group of court records found Turkish government prosecutors accused journalists who expressed dissenting political views of being directed by terrorist groups, implying that they are terrorists themselves. This leads to "an extremely difficult climate confronting any Turkish journalist who challenge official positions," the group says. The European Commission has also criticized Turkey's record on press freedom.

Turkish government supporters have recently implied that Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists have links to terrorist groups after criticizing Turkey's press crackdown.

As the world's leading professional organization for journalists, the Club supports press freedom and government transparency around the world. The Club condemns policies designed to intimidate reporters and editors. The right to gather information and inform the public is a basic human freedom. Turkey must immediately release its incarcerated journalists.