VIENNA, 4 April 2011 - Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, today asked Turkish authorities to bring the country's media legislation in line with OSCE commitments on media freedom following the release by her Office of a study that shows 57 journalists are imprisoned in Turkey.
“At present, 57 journalists are in prison in Turkey and the number of ongoing trials that can result in imprisonment of journalists is estimated to be from 700 to 1000,” said Mijatović, who commissioned the study after receiving a number of reports about imprisoned journalists.
In a letter to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, she wrote that the survey intended to show the need for media legislation reform in Turkey. She also offered her Office's support in developing such reforms.
“The sheer number of cases poses fundamental questions about the legal provisions governing journalism in Turkey, and it raises concerns that the number of journalists in prison can further increase,” Mijatović added.
“The OSCE participating States, including Turkey, have reaffirmed on several occasions the importance of free expression and the need to protect it. The OSCE commitments stress that everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority. Turkey reaffirmed the need to protect these values as recently as at the 2010 OSCE Astana Summit.”
She said that though governments have a legitimate need to fight the threat terrorism poses to national security, such security challenges should not be used by governments to curb media freedom. Criminalization of speech should be restricted to clear instances of intentional incitement to terrorism or other forms of violence.
“It is very important that authorities protect objective reporting even on sensitive topics such as terrorism or national security. The public’s right to know includes such issues,” Mijatović said.
She also noted that certain details in the study could not be determined precisely as the justifications for the imprisonment of journalists were not always in the public domain.
The table of imprisoned journalists can be accessed here: http://www.osce.org/fom/76373