In a press release entitled "Journalists' Arrests Signal Growing Press Freedom Backslide in Turkey", the US American rights organization Freedom House criticized the recent developments regarding press freedom in Turkey. "The ongoing harassment and detention of journalists in Turkey, including a number who have been held for two years without trial, represents an alarming threat to press freedom", Freedom House deplored.
In the press release issued on 14 March, the organization calls on the Turkish leaders to implement regulations that guarantee an independent media and to release detained journalists "held in cases where charges have not been brought or serious evidence has not been produced" and thus counteract this alarming trend.
Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Managing Director of the Freedom House's Freedom of the Press Index, said on behalf of the organization that with 50 journalists currently imprisoned, Turkey is among the countries with the highest number of detained journalists worldwide. She also mentioned the fact that about 4,000 trials are pending against journalists in Turkey.
In reference to the raid on the Oda TV news portal on 3 March, Freedom House announced, A recent campaign by Turkish authorities has resulted in the arrest of thirteen journalists on charges of conspiring with the so-called Ergenekon plot to overthrow the Justice and Development (AK) Party government. (...)Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, publically admitted the endangerment of civil liberties, claiming the actions are 'casting a shadow over the level that Turkey has reached and the image that is lauded by everyone.'"
Karlekar especially mentioned the situations of investigative journalist Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık who were arrested and detained as a result of the Oda TV raid. She also criticized situations like the one of journalist Mustafa Balbay, who has been in detention for more than two years without charge.
"This escalating war against media independence is seriously at odds with Turkey's self-proclaimed image as a model Muslim democracy.", Karlekar stated.
Press Freedom: Turkey "partly free"
In their Freedom of the Press 2010: Turkey report, Freedom House assessed the status of Turkey as "partly free". It read, "The press is restricted by the judiciary and the laws; journalists are arrested and punished; anti-government press institutions face an aggressive attitude".
Also in the Freedom in the World 2010: Turkey and Freedom on the Net 2010: Turkey reports on civil and political rights and freedoms, Turkey is labelled "partly free" by Freedom House. (EÇ/EÖ/VK)
Click here to access the reports on the Freedom House website.