Watchdog welcomes release of journalists in Turkey but criticizes climate of intimidation

Associated Press

An international media freedom watchdog says that while Turkey has released many journalists from prison recently, the government is creating a more fearful climate for critical media.

The chairman of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Sandy Rowe, and counterparts from the International Press Institute are meeting Turkish officials Thursday, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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CPJ has previously cited Turkey for being the world's worst offender for imprisoning journalists. But Rowe said all but 10 journalists have been released, though some only conditionally.

Still, after discussions with journalists in Turkey, she said the government has failed to stop intimidation of journalists who have published critical material.

"What we have heard from them consistently is that the overall conditions and climate of fear and intimidation that many journalists feel has increased," she said.

She noted that journalists who come under government criticism are often threatened by its supporters on social media.

"It of course tracks immediately to social media and it elevates way beyond name calling on criticism and it includes threats of harm — threats of real bodily harm or murder," she said. "That's very troubling; it shouldn't happen and in the case of Turkey we wish the government would speak out against it."

Rowe also criticized the government for restrictions on the Internet and social media, noting the temporary blockages of Twitter and YouTube by the government this year. Turkey's high court later overturned the blocks, calling them unconstitutional.

CPJ and IPI were expected to issue a statement following their meetings in Ankara.


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