Press freedom groups highlight Turkish gov’t chokehold over press

A trio of press freedom organisations released a joint statement on Monday, reminding Turkey of the importance of freedom of expression, Bianet news site reported

In the statement coinciding with May 3 World Press Freedom Day, the Association of European Journalists' (AEJ) Turkey Agency, Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD), and Press and Publishing Workers' Union of Turkey (DİSK Basın-İş) warned that the governments’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic last year fed into an authoritarian tendency that sacrifices press freedom in the process.

On this measure, they singled out Turkey in particular as being among Europe’s worst offenders.

“The freedom of the press has been sacrificed for either the interests of the country or the ambition for profit, except for a few countries in Europe that have established their democratic functioning to some extent. In this context, Turkey is in the category of countries with the worst press freedom,” it read. 

On the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Index, Turkey is ranked 153 out of 180. The joint statement makes it a point that many of those behind Turkey in the rankings suffer from war or other conflicts that constrain press freedom.

During COVID-19, the Turkish government has continued its crackdown on civil society and journalists have come under direct attack by government supporters.

Just recently, a number of journalists were badly beaten by supporters of the far-right National Movement Party (MHP), the coalition partner of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), for their work. 

Several prominent journalists, including exiled editor Can Dündar, have had their assets seized and threatened with a lengthy prison sentence. 

Another Turkish journalist, Müyesser Yıldız, was targeted Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Twitter for disputing claims about operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants. She was detained last June for her work.