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CPJ condemns journalist arrests

(CPJ/IFEX) - In a letter to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, CPJ condemns the arrests of as many as 29 journalists and the ongoing media repression in Turkey:

December 22, 2011

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Ceyhun Atif Kansu Caddesi No. 122
Balgat
Ankara, Turkey
Via facsimile: +90 312 473 64 55

Dear Prime Minister Erdogan,

The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to condemn the arrests of as many as 29 journalists in raids on Tuesday as well as the ongoing media repression that has earned Turkey a reputation as one of the world's worst press freedom violators and done grave damage to the consolidation of Turkish democracy.

In coordinated raids that stretched from Istanbul to Diyarbakir, and from Ankara to Izmir, police detained 40 individuals, according to state-run media. News reports said many are journalists, although the precise number is not clear. So far, CPJ has been able to identify 29 journalists by name and affiliation, and it continues to examine 11 others. Your government claims that the operation targets "the press and propaganda" arm of the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK), but it provides no evidence supporting this assertion. Authorities maintain that the KCK is the "urban wing" of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, a claim that has been widely disputed.

We are even more deeply troubled by this course of action because some in the Turkish media have alleged that a recent CPJ report confirming that eight Turkish journalist have been jailed for their work may have emboldened your government to take action. Indeed, your justice minister cited CPJ's finding in remarks before Parliament on December 8, the newspaper Dünya reported.

Mr. Prime Minister, it would be perverse for your government to take any solace whatsoever from CPJ's conclusion that eight journalists are in jail because of their work. This number - just behind Burma and ahead of Ethiopia - places Turkey firmly in the company of some of the world's most repressive countries and deeply compromises your government's commitments to democracy and the rule of the law. Our list of eight journalists jailed should be seen as a black mark on your record and a source of shame.

Moreover, it is a minimum. CPJ's researchers systematically investigated every one of the estimated 64 journalists in jail in your country on December 1 to determine the reason for their incarceration. While we were able to confirm in eight cases that the charges were related to journalism, we condemn the jailing of every single journalist in Turkey because of pervasive due process violations. In many instances investigated by CPJ, the judicial process itself has been opaque and the charges unsubstantiated.

Our research is ongoing, and we intend to send a delegation to Turkey in 2012 to further review the outstanding cases. We hope that your government will demonstrate its commitment to the transparent application of the law by cooperating with the CPJ delegation. We note with grave concern that we never received a response to our July 25 letter sent to your justice minister and requesting information about the spate of arrests.

Mr. Prime Minister, we urge you to ensure that as a member of the Council of Europe and a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Turkey respect its international obligations, in particular by curbing the use of secret evidence against journalists. Your government's record of what amounts to mass incarceration of journalists and media professionals without due process is doing grave damage to your country's reputation as an emerging democratic power. The threat is compounded by the fact that thousands of criminal cases have been opened against journalists across Turkey.

We urge you to amend this record, to commit your government to a transparent and open legal process, and to ensure that no journalists in Turkey are ever jailed for the expression of dissenting ideas.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director

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