Turkey escalates press freedom attacks in first half of  2022 - monitoring group

Turkey has continued its full-scale attack on press freedom in the first half of this year, with an escalation of systemic repression of independent media, according to a semi-annual report published by Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), an media violations watchdog organization.

The country saw 71 press freedom violations from January to June of this  year, involving 171 attacked persons or media entities, the MFRR, which tracks, monitors and reacts to violations of press and media freedom in EU member states and candidate countries, said.

The Turkish government under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has disabled the free press over the past two-decades, particularly following the 2016 coup attempt. The country ranks 153rd out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2021 World Press Freedom Index

"Increasing criminal charges and arbitrary arrests make it difficult to report critically on the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), while physical assaults on journalists by police and private individuals created a hostile and dangerous work environment," according to the report.

Turkish journalists are most commonly faced with legal persecution, according to the report, citing over half the over half - 59.2 percent - of the cases recorded by the organization.

"Journalists in Turkey were subjected to physical violence by police, especially while covering protests,’’ which accounted for one in three cases at 33.8 percent, it said. 

Turkey,  once the world’s worst jailer of journalists, is now ranked sixth in the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) census. A total of 18 journalists remain  behind bars while Turkish courts continue cases against others on charges such as “insulting the president,” “espionage”, or “spreading terrorist propaganda.”

The most common charges faced by Turkey’s journalists are terror propaganda and membership in a terrorist organisation, the MFRR said, adding that in April alone " at least twelve journalists were physically assaulted or faced police aggression while covering a press statement commemorating the 1977 1 May Massacre.’’

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