European journalists slam crackdown in Turkey, with 34 in jail

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) on Tuesday said it was backing a campaign in support of reporters in Turkey who are facing "relentless attacks and attempts to silence them," noting that 34 media workers are currently in jail.

Nearly half of the 34 journalists in jail were arrested during the past year, according to the Belgium-based EFJ, marking a serious uptick.

"Turkey has the largest number of journalists in jail out of all the countries in the Council of Europe," Mehmet Koksal, a project officer with EFJ, told dpa.

More than 10 foreign journalists have also been denied entry to Turkey or deported, Koksal said, often due to reporting on the south-east, where Kurdish militants and the state have been clashing for the past year after a ceasefire collapsed last July.

"Heavy censorship is the norm and critical voices are constantly stigmatized," the EFJ said about Turkey, adding that there were also "frequent media blackouts."

For example, after terrorist attacks - such as the most recent one at Ataturk international airport, blamed on Islamic State, which killed 45 people - the government often imposes such blackouts. Social media users have reported the throttling of websites like Twitter and Facebook.

According to Koksal, most of the journalists jailed over the past year work for either Kurdish media outlets or with the Gulenist movement, which was once allied with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but fell out recently.

The "I am a journalist" (Ben Gazeteciyim in Turkish) campaign was launched this week with support from a number of international groups, including the Index on Censorship, based in London.

A Turkish government official recently denied that there was a crackdown against the media, saying most of the media workers in jail were arrested for involvement in terrorism and other violent crimes.

Last update: Tue, 12/07/2016 - 17:28

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