Turkey has overtaken China as the world’s biggest jailer of journalists

Turkey has its crown back.
Turkey has its crown back.
Image: Reuters/Murad Sezer
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Turkish journalists have been subjected to fierce attacks by the government. Since the failed coup attempt in July, the government has arrested more than 100 journalists and closed around 150 media outlets.

Turkey has now surpassed China (paywall) to reclaim the title of the world’s biggest jailer of journalists. In 2015, China led, putting 49 journalists behind bars. Turkey was the world’s worst jailer in 2012 and 2013, detaining 49 and 40 journalists, respectively.

The government has been using emergency powers it assumed after the failed coup to arrest journalists on terrorism charges. Just this week it arrested and deported a French journalist, put three journalists on trial for terrorism charges, and arrested Şaban İba, a former editor of the shuttered, pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which has been providing regular updates on the government’s crackdown on the press.

Not only traditional media are affected. Turkey reportedly blocked access to Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and YouTube on Nov. 4, according to monitoring group Turkey Blocks. The crackdown took place at the same time that police arrested several pro-Kurdish politicians.

Even before the coup, the government had made numerous legal requests to Twitter to remove or withhold content. Of the 4,434 removal requests Twitter received in the first half of 2016, 1,781 came from Turkey, according to the company’s Transparency Report. The UN today called on Turkey to release all jailed journalists; it estimates that some 155 are currently in detention.