VIENNA, 2 April 2012 - Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, today presented an updated analysis on imprisoned journalists in Turkey and called for immediate reform of the nation’s media laws.
“The number of imprisoned journalists in Turkey has significantly increased in the past year,” Mijatović said. “This is worrisome and demands the immediate attention and swift action of the authorities.”
Ninety-five journalists are in prison today, up from 57 a year ago, according to the OSCE study, which is an update of a similar analysis published last year.
“The sheer number of imprisoned journalists raises fundamental questions about the law and policy on journalism and free expression in Turkey. I am concerned that the threat of imprisonment will lead to further widespread self-censorship,” Mijatović said.
“The laws need to be changed so journalists are not jailed for their work. Those who are in prison now need to be released,” Mijatović said.
The study shows journalists face extended pre-trial detention and long sentences if convicted. “Courts do not routinely grant pre-trial release to accused journalists,” she said. “I am aware of only seven recent occasions when journalists were released pending trial, a development which I publicly welcomed. I hope others will be released soon and their trials finalized swiftly.”
The study shows that the laws most commonly used to jail journalists are Article 5 and 7 of the Anti-Terror Law (relating to articles of the Criminal Code on terrorist offences and organizations or assisting members of or making propaganda in connection with such organizations, as well as the lengthening of sentences), and Article 314 of the Criminal Code (on establishing, commanding or becoming member of an armed organization with the aim of committing certain offences).
Mijatović said that she recognized the legitimate right of governments to fight terrorism and protect national security and their citizens. “However, objective reporting about all issues, including sensitive topics such as terrorism, is a fundamental part of democratic societies and journalists play an indispensable role by providing information to the public.”
Ahead of publication, Mijatović sent the study and shared her concerns with the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, offering her Office’s full assistance in reforming the media laws in Turkey.
The main findings of the study and a detailed table of all imprisoned journalists can be accessed at http://www.osce.org/fom/89371