10/22/2015, 00.00
TURKEY
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Blasts and polls: journalists threatened and arrested as Ankara clamps down on media

The peace march massacre and the 1 November election have boosted censorship. At least 20 journalists have been detained under the country’s anti-terror legislation. Freedom of the press in Turkey is under serious threat, international activists say, with President Erdogan as the main culprit.

Istanbul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Press freedom in Turkey is under serious threat as the authorities censor, intimidate and arrests of journalists, this according to a coalition of international press rights groups after a three-day "emergency mission" to Turkey.

Screws have been tightening in recent weeks following the bloody attack on a peace march on 10 October in Ankara that killed more than a hundred people.

However, "Many journalists are in prison for simply doing their jobs, which is reporting to the public," said Barbara Trionfi, executive director of the International Press Institute.

In fact, 20 journalists are behind bars in Turkey on mainly terrorism-related charges, a sign of increased state pressure on the press and independent reporters.

Dozens of supporters of the ruling AK party protested outside the offices of the Hürriyet newspaper last month, after it published an article they claimed contained lies about Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  Days later, one of the newspaper’s columnists was brutally attacked outside his home. 

The aforementioned coalition said that its mission was prompted by "concerns over the deteriorating state of media freedoms in the country and its impact on the election".

At a press conference in Istanbul, coalition representatives said that some journalists have been in pre-trial detention for months, whilst others have been sentenced for links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Concerns have been growing about press freedoms as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pursues a military offensive against the PKK and the country prepares for its second general election in five months.

International journalists have been arrested and deported, and one of Turkey's best-known anti-government journalists was attacked this month and a "terror propaganda" probe opened into the paper he works for.

Erdogan had sparked outrage in the run-up to the 7 June election by saying the editor-in-chief of the secular Cumhuriyet daily would "pay a heavy price" over a front-page story which it said proved Turkey had sent arms to Syrian rebels.

Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink was deported in September after being detained during clashes between Kurdish rebels and Turkish security forces.

In a statement, the coalition of international press rights groups urged Erdogan "to end all exercises of direct personal pressure on owners and/or chief editors of critical media and to stop using negative or hostile rhetoric targeting journalists".

Turkey now requires all national and international journalists to be accredited in order to cover the November vote.

The country was the world's top jailer of journalists in 2012 and 2013, ahead of Iran and China, according to the international Committee to Protect Journalists, before improving to 10th place in 2014.

Erdogan has previously insisted his country has "the freest press in the world". However, Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 149th out of 180 in its 2015 press freedom index last month, warning of a "dangerous surge in censorship."

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