Turkey: journalists in prison for common crimes, Erdogan

Premier defends controversial arrests

27 January, 17:53

(ANSAmed) - ANKARA, JANUARY 27 - Turkey's Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan has defended the legitimacy of the arrests of journalists who are currently in custody in Turkey, claiming that they have been accused of common crimes and have not been arrested for their opinion. The website Bianet reports that Erdogan defended the move two days ago during the 25th anniversary of the newspaper Zaman, specifying that the journalists are in prison under charges of possession of weapons or explosives, falsification of documents, sexual harassment, terrorism or coup attempt: "A campaign against Turkey is being waged by murders of police officers, sexual molesters and supporters of a coup who call themselves journalists," the Premier said according to the website. "The West does not understand" because it has no dealings with journalists who support a coup, Erdogan complained, explicitly referring to alleged coup plans by ultra-secular organisation Ergenekon. Erdogan made his statements on the day Turkey was placed on a very low position (148th on 179 countries) on the list of freedom of press, drafted this time by Reporters without Borders under the title World Press Freedom Index. Based on the most recent data supplied this month by the Union of Turkish journalists, 97 journalists, editors and other people active in the media are currently in prison in Turkey, more than in China.

Both the Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, and the country's European Affairs Minister and chief negotiator for Turkey's EU accession, Egemen Bagis, have underlined that the arrested journalists are not held for their opinion or for what they have written, but because they have committed crimes. Only four are actually in custody for what they have written. Last year Bagis reported that a wire tap of a private conversation between the Premier and his wife had been found at the editorial office of a Turkish magazine. The Minister underlined that journalists of the New York Times have also been arrested for what they have written and for refusing to refuse their source, while the same can be said for Italy and the UK. In December Bagis said that Erdogan is "not pleased" with the accusations of limited press freedom. The government is reportedly working on changing the laws that are bringing journalist to jail. Press freedom in Turkey is regularly criticised by the European Commission, European Parliament, European Council, OECD, U.S., international associations of journalists, various NGOs and the Turkish opposition. (ANSAmed).

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