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Turkey deemed world's biggest prison for journalists by Reporter Without Borders

(RSF/IFEX) - Coinciding with the publication of its annual roundup, Reporters Without Borders is releasing the findings of the investigation it has conducted in recent months into journalists imprisoned in Turkey.

"With a total of 72 media personnel currently detained, of whom at least 42 journalists and four media assistants are being held in connection with their media work, Turkey is now the world's biggest prison for journalists - a sad paradox for a country that portrays itself as a regional democratic model," Reporters Without Borders said.

"The number of detained journalists is unprecedented since the end of military rule but is not surprising given the Turkish judicial system's structural problems - very repressive legislation with broad and vaguely-worded provisions that allow all kinds of excesses, and markedly paranoid judicial attitudes that prioritize security concerns to the detriment of the defence of rights and freedom of information.

"Most of the imprisoned journalists are representatives of Kurdish media, a situation that again underscores the fact that freedom of information in Turkey is inextricably linked with the search for a peaceful solution to the issue of its Kurdish minority.

"The Turkish authorities have apparently begun to appreciate the scale of the problem. The so-called 'third judicial reform package' (Law 6352 of July 2012) has led in recent months to the conditional release of about fifteen journalists, some of whom had been in prison for years. But their cases are only suspended and an even bigger number of journalists are still waiting to be released.

"Worse still, there has hardly been any let-up in the pace with which more journalists are being arrested, jailed and brought to trial. This was seen yet again last week, when Sadiye Eser, a journalist with the left-wing daily Evrensel, was arrested. According to our tally, at least 61 journalists have been arrested in 2012.

"Although Turkey's media landscape is extensive and diversified, critical and investigative journalism is often criminalized - a tendency that has been reinforced by a renewed increase in tension surrounding the Kurdish issue. Only a complete overhaul of the anti-terrorism law and the repeal of about 20 repressive articles in the criminal code will be able to address this.

"These legislative reforms will have to be accompanied by changes in judicial practices in line with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights - meaning much less use of preventive detention, respect for the right to information on subjects of public interest, protection for journalists' sources and a more independent and transparent judicial system."

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