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Mainland Turkey’s press freedom on the decline

3 May 2013

According to democracy watchdog group Freedom House’s annual survey, Turkey’s press freedom ranking has dropped further this year, with Turkey rated as a “partly free” country.

The report said Turkey remained at the edges of the region, with a score of 56 this year, well inside the Partly Free range, as the government continued to crack down on journalists in 2012. Freedom House ranked Turkey 120th out of 197 countries and territories, three notches down from 2011.

It added that constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press and expression are only partially upheld in practice, undermined by restrictive provisions in the criminal code and the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Freedom House uses a variety of criteria to rank countries’ media as Free, Partly Free or Not Free, and tracks trends over time.

Of the 197 countries and territories Freedom House assessed during 2012, a total of 63 (32%) were rated Free, 70 (36%) were rated Partly Free, and 64 (32%) were rated Not Free.

The report noted that thanks to detentions stemming from investigations into the Ergenekon coup plot [to overthrow the AK governing party] and a crackdown on terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members, Turkey remains among the nations with the most journalists behind bars in the world.

Overall, a slump in global media freedom driven by Mali’s turmoil, Greece’s decline and tightening media control in Latin America pushed the percentage of the world’s population in countries with a completely free press to its lowest level in 16 years.

Last year’s gains in press freedom in the Middle East and North Africa remained precarious, with Tunisia and Libya mainly holding onto their Arab Spring gains while Egypt significantly backslid, Freedom House said.

The Freedom House report came out two days before the observance of UN-declared World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House, said that Turkey has the highest number of jailed journalists in the world but that his organisation’s report is not related to the on-going cases against the journalists. He added that this picture shows that the press freedom in Turkey is problematic.

Kramer said he wants Turkey to integrate with the European Union and that its membership in the 27-member bloc, sooner or later, will be positive for both Turkey and the EU.

When reminded about the recent statement of the Writers’ and Journalists’ Foundation (GYV), in which it made a call to bring Turkey’s press freedom to the level of EU standards, Kramer said that he is in full agreement with that call. Kramer added that joining the EU will bring the level of press freedom in Turkey to EU level.

Speaking about the new Turkish constitution, Kramer said the new constitution must attach special importance to press freedom.

Freedom House, founded in 1941, is a US-based non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights.

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