Trial monitoring in Turkey creates public awareness and provides legal support

In Turkey, freedom of the press has been under attack for several years. According to the Center for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) 47 media workers are behind bars in the country. In the Reporters without Borders ranking, Turkey ranks 154 – embraced by Belarus and Rwanda.

Our partners at the Media Law and Studies Association (MLSA) play a crucial role in a solidarity network that aims to assist persecuted media workers and raise attention both at home and internationally about the dismal state of affairs of media freedom in Turkey. MLSA strives to shed light on what is happening in courtrooms where journalists stand trial for pursuing their jobs. In a project supported by our Foundation and the International Press Institute (IPI), MLSA representatives have observed 169 trials. In a recent report, the group shared a sobering observation: “The act of journalism has become increasingly criminalized by the judiciary.”

“Journalism is being criminalized”

MLSA describes a pattern by which the Turkish judiciary silences dissenting voices: “Prosecutors use journalistic work as evidence for terrorism”. In nearly two thirds of cases monitored, defendants were charged with terror-related crimes. Pre-trial detention is another frequently used strategy to silence journalists, as the report states: “The power of pre-trial detention in the hands of a radicalized judiciary remains a potent tool for withdrawing the freedom of critics for months before they go to court.”

MLSA notes their efforts to monitor court proceedings and stand by the defendants in court has brought about “some improvements” for accused media workers. Still, this should not be mistaken for the re-emergence of an “independent and objective judiciary acting free from influence of political leaders”.

In a nutshell: Turkey today is far from ideal with regard to the rule of law and press freedom. Persecution of critical media workers – and others – remains a somberly commonplace in the country.

In the ranking of Reporters without Borders Turkey is placed 154 out of 180 countries - between Belarus and Rwanda.

MLSA monitors legal trials and defends journalists and media representatives.

MLSA event with human rights lawyer Veysel Ok (right)

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