Open Topic: Journalistic Freedom in Turkey

by Jessica Stone

If I were a Turkish citizen writing this blog post, I could go to jail for it. Why? Simply for criticizing the Turkish government. According to the Global Post:

“Turkey is the number one jailer of journalists in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders, and has reached a record high of imprisoned journalists, at 232 people…  Jailing journalists for everything from pro-Kurdish columns to alleged blasphemy, the Turkish government has no plans to end the madness.”

Baransu could face up to 43 years in prison. Source: Today’s Zaman

One recent example of Turkey cracking down on reporters who portray the country’s government in a bad light is the case of Turkish government Mehmet Baransu, who is charged with revealing classified documents and could face up to 43 years in prison, according to Today’s Zaman. The document he’s facing trouble for reporting on is a government document that revealed the country’s National Security Council advised the government in 2004 to start investigating, profiling, and spying on faith-based groups within the country.

Critics have berated this move by the government, which assigned Baransu’s case to the division that handles counterterrorism cases. The Zaman reported that the Turkey Journalists’ Federation’s president said “The purpose [of the government], with this investigation, is to frighten Turkish journalists and force them to turn a blind eye to the country’s facts and report on unimportant issues.”

This isn’t the first time Turkey has drawn criticism for its handling of free speech issues.  Watchdog group Freedom House took issue with Turkey’s response to the 2012 film The Innocence of Muslims, an amateur-made video meant to mock Islam in a vitriolic manner.  Erdogan proposed making it an international crime to blaspheme against Islam, but Freedom House released a statement that year saying  “an international blasphemy law would only add a veneer of religious virtue to an existing pattern of hostility toward free expression” established by Erdogan’s jailing of journalists.


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