Turkey declared a state of emergency on July 21, 2016, and it was extended seven times before it ended in 2018. The crackdown on freedom of press and speech, however, persists despite the state of emergency being lifted. More than 300 journalists were put in jail during that time, and almost the same number faced trials. Exact figures could not be provided due to the lack of reliable information and the high number of jailed journalists. Jailed Journos platform has made a list, through scanning open sources and social media posts, of journalists who will enter the year 2020 in prison. The platform also spoke with the relatives and colleagues of the journalists.
According to the platform’s list coming out after all these efforts, 161 journalists, among them editors, reporters, columnists, will welcome the new year in prison.
The list also includes two owners of local newspapers; Alaaddin Akkaşoğlu, owner of the Kütahya province-based Akis daily and online news site Karşı, and Alaaddin Kaya who was the publisher of Zaman daily and owner of the Ankara-based Belde daily.
The rest of the list provides the names of relatively lesser-known media workers, such as the representatives of media outlets, graphic editors, montage editors, news writers, and broadcast technicians. It remains unknown how many media workers from state-run media outlets such as Anadolu Agency (AA) and Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) were arrested. The numbers are staggering, and they are unable to speak out due to the ongoing crackdown in Turkey.
There are nine female journalists in the Jailed Journos’ list: Zaman daily reporters Ayşenur Parıldak, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Selma Tatlı; Atılım daily editor Hatice Duman; Jinha media editors Özlem Seyhan, Melike Aydın; Mezopotamya Agency reporters Ruken Demir, Sadiye Eser and Burç Radio program producer Yasemin Yalçın Aktosun.
Some of the journalists in prison are over 60 years old! One can think that they have been left to die in prison, considering the jail terms given to them. Alaaddin Kaya, who has been sentenced to life in prison, is 69 years old. Ahmet Altan, a veteran journalist who has recently received a term of ten years six months in jail, is also 69 years old. Samanyolu TV channel’s chairman Hidayet Karace is another figure sentenced to a lifetime in prison, and he is 57 years old. Zaman daily columnist Mümtazer Türköne and Rota Haber chief editor are also among the journalists over their 60s, with jail sentences of ten years six months and six years three months, respectively.
Released and rearrested, discordance between judges
Two or three different dates of arrest for some names are seen in the list. The reason for that is a judge had released a journalist; another judge ordered his or her rearrest under the same conditions and accusations soon after.
Ahmet Altan was released on September 22, 2016, and detained again one day later. He was then set free after the court handed down his sentence on November 4, 2019. However, he was sent back to prison eight days later. A similar incident took place in 2017, where 21 had been initially released but rearrested before leaving the prison.
More than 300 journalists faced trials from the declaration of the state of emergency onward. Most of the cases are still ongoing.
In 2019 alone, journalists attended 733 hearings. They are under pressure due to the court proceedings that last two to three years, during which time defendants face travel restrictions and are obliged to report to police stations once a week. Their freedom is being restricted, and lengthy court proceedings hinder them from focusing on their work.