Turkish authorities hail press freedom as dozens of journalists remain imprisoned

Turkish authorities have hailed press freedom in their messages released to mark the Working Journalists' Day. Turkey is among the world's biggest jailer of journalists and has been ranking at the bottom of press freedom indexes for years under Erdoğan's rule.

A member of the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) holds a placard reading "Enough!" during a demonstration to mark World Press Freedom Day in central Istanbul, Turkey, May 3, 2017.

Duvar English 

Turkish authorities have released congratulatory messages to mark Jan. 10 Working Journalists' Day - a day that journalists in Turkey can hardly celebrate since dozens are behind bars. 

Journalists appeared in court 479 times in 2020 solely over their journalistic activities, a report by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said, adding that they were detained 78 times and 25 were arrested. 

At least 68 journalists welcomed the new year behind bars, the report prepared by CHP deputy Utku Çakırözer also said. 

Two TV channels critical of the government were blacked out for five days each and Olay TV, which was founded with the motto of impartial news reporting, was able to survive for mere 26 days due to government pressure. 

While five newspapers were banned from receiving advertisements for a total of 333 days, fines were imposed on dailies Sözcü and Evrensel and news portal OdaTV.

In such an environment where journalists face numerous charges for simply reporting the truth, Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said that press freedom is guaranteed in Turkey. 

"In our country, freedom of the press and freedom of expression have been expanded and guaranteed to such an extent that cannot be compared to 20 years ago," Altun said in a message released to mark Working Journalists' Day. 

"The existence of our press organizations and journalists, who have made an impact in the international media with their achievements and competence, fills our country with pride and honors us. Turkey's progress in every sector in recent years has also been demonstrated by the establishment of a diverse liberal atmosphere in the media," Altun claimed. 

According to Altun, press freedom and the freedom of expression "are exploited inside and outside by the anti-Turkey circles with distorted assessments and are being associated with baseless comments to create a negative perception against our country."

"The period in which we live and the events taking place in our region have shown how precious the truth is and has also proven how dangerous the journalists, who become strangers to their own country and society, can be," he said, targeting journalists even in a statement released to mark Working Journalists' Day.

"Journalists who are 'representatives of the truth' before anyone else should not allow the concepts of freedom of the press and expression to be used as shields for the propaganda of terrorist organizations, discrimination among our citizens, spreading the seeds of discord and hatred, or glorifying the tutelage and coup periods," Altun said in a stark description of what the government expects from journalists.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also released a message, saying "We will never give up on press freedom."

"We will never allow this concept to be abused and used for black propaganda against our country both within our country and abroad," Erdoğan said. 

“The existence of media, which is polyphonic, effective and capable of informing the public without being subject to any restrictions, is an indispensable condition of a democratic and transparent society,” he said, apparently not perceiving the jailing of journalists as a "restriction."