Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has once again listed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a "press freedom predator" alongside 36 other heads of government.
Erdoğan has been on the list since 2009 and his "favorite targets" are listed as "critical journalists."
"Turkey’s president does not like the media, or rather, he likes the media to be submissive and docile and to sing his praises," RSF said.
"Even if Turkey is no longer the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, the risk of imprisonment and the fear of having to work under judicial control or being stripped of one’s passport are still ubiquitous," it noted.
RSF said that the two-year-long state of emergency that was declared after the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt, believed to have been masterminded by U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen's network, gave Erdoğan the opportunity to arrest unprecedented numbers of journalists and to close more than 100 newspapers, magazines, TV channels and radio stations.
"The deteriorated climate encourages violence against journalists. More than 100 have been physically attacked in the past five years and one, who worked for a radio station in the city of Bursa, was killed by a listener," it said.
"Whether left-wing, pro-Kurdish, pro-Gülen, secularist or nationalist – any journalist or media outlet regarded as critical is liable to be prosecuted. Around 50 journalists were briefly arrested in 2020 in connection with their coverage of the situation of Syrian refugees at the border with Greece or the COVID-19 pandemic," RSF noted.
Any online reporting that reflects badly on prominent people close to the government is also routinely censored, it said, adding that more than 1,300 links to online articles (about corruption, clientelism and the like) were blocked in 2020 by magistrates under Erdoğan's thumb.
Turkey ranks 153rd out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.
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RSF published a gallery of 37 heads of state or government who crack down massively on press freedom. Some of these “predators of press freedom” have been operating for more than two decades while others have just joined the blacklist, which for the first time includes two women and a European predator, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Nearly half (17) of the predators are making their first appearance on the 2021 list, which RSF is publishing five years after the last one, from 2016.
Nineteen of these predators rule countries that are colored red on the RSF’s press freedom map, meaning their situation is classified as “bad” for journalism, and 16 rule countries colored black, meaning the situation is “very bad.” The average age of the predators is 66. More than a third (13) of these leaders come from the Asia-Pacific region.
“There are now 37 leaders from around the world in RSF’s predators of press freedom gallery and no one could say this list is exhaustive,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
For each of the predators, RSF has compiled a file identifying their “predatory method,” how they censor and persecute journalists, and their “favorite targets” – the kinds of journalists and media outlets they go after.