Freedom House Welcomes Release of Turkish Journalists
Freedom House welcomes the release of four Turkish journalists on March 12, but cautions that Turkey must do more to address ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression. Ahmet Şık, Nedim Şener, Şait Çakır and Coşkun Musluk spent over a year in prison for their alleged involvement in a plot to overthrow the Turkish government – known as “Ergenekon.” Critics see the Ergenekon trials as a negative move on media freedom as there is little substantial evidence connecting the hundreds of arrests made to date. The Istanbul court that ordered their release cited "the probability of the crime's qualification being subject to change" and "the time suspects spent under arrest" as reasons for the decision. The journalists were among ten suspects detained in the Ergenekon trial’s controversial OdaTV case. The others remain in custody.
Press freedom and freedom of expression are guaranteed by the constitution by Turkey, but in practice there are challenges to freedom of expression, including from vague penal and antiterrorism laws. Journalists and publishers in Turkey are subject to legal investigations, and can face imprisonment for up to three years for disseminating statements and propaganda from terrorist organizations. Members of the pro-Kurdish press have often been accused of collaborating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organization. Several alleged participants in the Ergenekon plot were imprisoned for years without trial, including Mustafa Balbay and Tuncay Özkan, who have spent more than three years in detention. On December 20, 2011, dozens of journalists were arrested for their alleged terrorist ties.
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