Turkish prosecutors have sought a life sentence for one out of every 10 journalists on trial since 2018, said Press in Arrest, a volunteer group monitoring trials of Turkish journalists.
In its report titled “Anatomy of Journalist Prosecutions in Turkey,” the advocacy group said that at least 356 journalists have been prosecuted in 240 press trials since September 2018.
In 240 cases against journalists monitored by the group, the period between the approval of the indictment and the first court hearing date is about five months.
One in every five cases prosecuting journalists, it takes at least six months for the trial to be launched, the group said.
During 61 percent of journalist prosecutions, the board of judges were changed at least once, the group said. “Prolonging trial proceedings duration, this pattern risks violation of the right to trial within a reasonable time,” it said.
The group said that the Law on Prevention of Terrorism is being misused by the authorities to jail journalists as its articles were invoked with an excessive number of 299 times in 240 cases against press members.
“The systematic and arbitrary use of criminal law and anti-terror legislation against journalists as a tool of harassment, the arbitrary detention of journalists, the failure to respect due process rights of journalists in the course of trials, and the lack of independence and impartiality of the judiciary is having a severe effect on the ability of journalists to freely carry out their important work in Turkey,” the group said.
“This has a serious impact on the public’s right to be properly informed about matters of public interest. The extremely difficult atmosphere for journalists in Turkey creates a chilling effect for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in the country by those who are critical of the government policies.”
Turkey ranks 153 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, as press freedom remains a distant dream for many Turkish journalists.