By Stefan Simanowitz
Imagine if Christiane Amanpour and Anderson Cooper were arrested for supporting ‘terrorist organizations’ or if Glenn Greenwald and Oprah Winfrey were sentenced to life in the highest security prison for ‘plotting to overthrow the state’. This may seem wildly far-fetched, but in Turkey, this is exactly what is happening.
Some of the country’s best-known and most respected journalists are currently behind bars in the world’s biggest jailer of journalists for the second year in a row.
Indeed around one third of all imprisoned journalists in the world are languishing in Turkish prisons, and last week’s newly published Word Press Freedom Index placed Turkey 157 out of 180 countries sandwiched between Rwanda and Kazakhstan.
“Working under the constant threat of arrest and conviction makes life extremely difficult but journalism is our profession. We have to carry it out,” says Çağdaş Kaplan, editor of the online news portal Gazete Karınca.
“There is a plainly visible truth in Turkey, but there is also an attempt to hide it from society. Somebody has to speak about it, and that’s what we are trying to do.”
That truth is a stark one. Under Turkey’s ongoing state of emergency—declared as a “temporary exceptional measure” following the failed coup almost two years ago—human rights have been decimated and the independent media completely hollowed out. Anti-terrorism laws and trumped-up charges are used to target and silence peaceful dissent.