ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – In 2018, Western-allied Turkey remained the world’s worst jailer of journalists for having put 68 behind bars, a figure surpassing the number of those imprisoned in China, Iran, and Syria combined, according to findings by the New York-based press watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
“For the third consecutive year, every journalist imprisoned in Turkey is facing anti-state charges,” the CPJ said in a report published Thursday.
A majority of the anti-state charges the press freedom advocate noted have repeatedly been terrorist propaganda, endangering national security, or insulting the president.
Worldwide, the total count stood at 251 “or more.”
Following Turkey in the damning publication were China which put 47 journalists in jail, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia that imprisoned 25 and 16 journalists respectively.
The list went on to name Eritrea, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Iran, Cameroon, Bahrain, and Syria as the rest of journalist jailers.
“The authoritarian approach to critical news coverage is more than a temporary spike,” the organization’s Editorial director Elana Beiser wrote, drawing particular attention to the administration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan along with other authoritarian rulers around the globe.
“Even as Turkish President [ Erdogan] has been the fiercest critic of Saudi Arabia for the murder of Khashoggi, his government continued to jail more journalists than any other on the planet,” Beiser added.
Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist with close ties to Erdogan’s inner circle, was brutally murdered inside his country’s consulate in Istanbul months ago.
His pre-planned assassination followed by chopping up of his corpse with a bone saw according to top American officials led to a global outcry perpetuated with near-daily Turkish intelligence leaks regarding the gruesome incident that took place at a diplomatic post. Erdogan appeared to create pressure to prevent the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from becoming the next king as the two leaders’ regional policies and interests remained in conflict.
The CPJ noted that in the course of the past year, Turkey jailed or released dozens more with prosecutors continuing to issue arrest warrants and apply new charges against journalists.
However, Turkey Journalists’ Syndicate said the total number of journalists in Turkish jails was much higher, a staggering number of 144, a majority of them reporting, editing, or photographing for Kurdish media.
The national union of media workers published the names and media affiliation of journalists Erdogan’s government has imprisoned on its website a day before the CPJ report.
Other press freedom organizations have put the number at close to 170.
Erdogan has repeatedly labeled them as “terrorists” and at times vowed to keep them in jail as long as he runs the country.
The confusion behind the figures lies behind the fact that media workers who do not have “the yellow card” given by authorities in Ankara are officially not considered journalists.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany