The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reports that 57 journalists are imprisoned in Turkey today and is calling on the country's Islamist government to bring media laws in line with OSCE commitments to support press freedom. Ongoing trials in Turkey could result in the imprisonment of between 700 and 1,000 journalists, according to Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE's representative on media freedom.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has attacked critics from the OSCE and the European Parliament, which last month raised questions about "the deterioration in freedom of the press, about certain acts of censorship and about growing self-censorship within the Turkish media, including on the Internet." Erdogan said last month that 27 journalists in Turkey were behind bars because of terrorist ties or involvement in efforts to overthrow the government.
Critics contend the journalists are not being jailed due to security concerns but rather because of the prime minister's desire to silence critics. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that in 2010:
"Authorities paraded journalists into court on anti-terror, criminal defamation and state security charges as they tried to suppress critical news and commentary on issues involving national identity, the Kurdish minority, and an alleged anti-government conspiracy."
In June 2007, investigators found an arms cache in the attic of a house in Istanbul. Since then, hundreds of people, including Turkish editors, writers and four-star generals have been detained as part of an investigation into a purported terrorist conspiracy against the government. Turks outside the government maintain that Erdogan seeks to use the investigation as a pretext to crack down against Turks who want their country to remain a secular state.
Other comments by Erdogan suggest that he blames the press for the country's economic woes. Last year, he linked the hiring policies of Turkish media companies to societal and economic instability in the country.
"You cannot say, 'I don't want tension, but I cannot do anything about the publications provoking the tension," Erdogan said. "If you open a shop or a company, will you keep staff who do their best to sink the company? No, you fire them the next day."
He called on the media to "act with responsibility" when writing commentaries about the economy. "We are in the same boat and we're not going to allow a hole in the bottom," Erdogan said.