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Media Under Fire in Turkey


Zaman editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanli, surrounded by his colleagues and plainclothes police officers (C), reacts as he leaves the headquarters of Zaman daily newspaper in Istanbul December 14, 2014.

On December 14th, a crackdown swept 13 cities across Turkey, as police detained at least 27 journalists, police officers, and others, including Ekrem Dumanli, the Editor-in-Chief of Zaman, one of the Turkey’s highest circulating newspapers.

On December 14th, a crackdown swept 13 cities across Turkey, as police detained at least 27 journalists, police officers, and others, including Ekrem Dumanli, the Editor-in-Chief of Zaman, one of the Turkey’s highest circulating newspapers. The Turkish government alleges that those detained are suspected of forgery, fabricating evidence and forming a crime syndicate to undermine the state.

"It appears media outlets that have been openly critical of the current Turkish government," said U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki, in a written statement, "are among the targets of these actions by Turkish law enforcement. Media freedom, due process, and judicial independence are key elements in every healthy democracy and are enshrined in the Turkish constitution."

Many believe these latest detentions are another indication of efforts by Turkish authorities to intimidate the media and silence dissent. "Day by day journalists are becoming afraid," said Zaman photojournalist Muhenna Kahveci as he protested in front of a police station with hundreds of people holding signs that read, "Free media can't be silenced."

"The problem," said Mr. Kahveci, "is you don't know what's going to happen if you report critically."

"These arrests appear to be government retribution against journalists reporting on corruption and criticizing the government," said Daniel Calingaert, executive vice president of the Washington–based rights group Freedom House, "The crackdown on speech in Turkey must end." Freedom House this year downgraded the Turkish press from being "partly free" to "not free."

State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki noted that “As Turkey's friend and ally, we urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions do not violate” core values of freedom of the press, due process, and judicial independence and ultimately “Turkey's own democratic foundations.”

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