Index strongly condemns the indefinite closure of newspaper Özgür Gündem by a Turkish court.
The silencing — even temporarily — of one of Turkey’s last independent papers underscores the severe erosion of freedom of expression in the country. This crackdown on critical voices has accelerated since the attempt to overthrow the country’s democratically elected and increasingly autocratic president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Özgür Gündem, a paper that gives voice to the country’s Kurdish minority, has — along with other outlets — been the target of restrictive government policies. In May, officials used a paper-sponsored solidarity campaign to target journalists and editors that participated to stifle any criticism of the government’s renewed fight with armed factions affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The resulting investigation saw journalists interrogated and detained for articles that the government said were spreading “terrorist propaganda”.Waves of arrests rippling across the country have swept up journalists, academics and even artists and are rightly raising concerns around the world. This latest attack on media freedom sends a clear signal that president Erdogan is intent on playing politics with the public’s right to information and journalists’ right to report,” Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg said.
As part of its post-coup purge, the government has targeted at least 70,000 people, who are accused of ties to the Gulenist movement that President Erdogan says is behind the failed assault. In addition, 151 media outlets have been closed and at least 77 journalists have been detained, making Turkey the largest jailer of reporters in the world.
“Index’s Mapping Media Freedom project has been monitoring the grim toll the post-coup purge is having on Turkey’s media freedom. In the month since the failed coup, there have been 61 verified and serious threats to press freedom. In contrast, the other 41 counties monitored by the project accounted for 51 reports,” Hannah Machlin, Mapping Media Freedom project officer said.