Turkish President Erdogan denies jailing hundreds of journalists saying they don't have press cards

Turkish President Erdogan denies jailing hundreds of journalists saying they don't have press cards
Erdogan said the claims his country persecuted journalists were lies, despite the fact that hundreds of press passes had been removed in the last year.
2 min read
12 July, 2017
Turkish police arrest a man at a 'journalism is not a crime' protest [AFP]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denies his government has imprisoned 150 journalists, saying that only two of those in jail actually hold press cards.

Erdogan said the BBC's claims were "lies", despite the fact that 775 Turkish journalists have had their press card status removed in the past year.

The UK's National Union of Journalists called the president's comments "clearly outrageous and untrue".

"Earlier this year I met members of the journalists' union of Turkey and spoke to scores of journalists – it was clear that the threats they faced were very real," said Tim Dawson, president of the NUJ.

"I saw the lists of names of those arrested and jailed. We believe more than 150 reporters and broadcasters have been incarcerated because of what they have written."

Read more: The New Arab's collection of stories on Press Freedom in Turkey

Speaking on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Hamburg last week, Erdogan insisted the arrests had been made on legitimate grounds.

"Journalists commit crimes too and when they do the judiciary makes the necessary assessment," he said.

"I want you to know that those you know as being members of the press are mostly people who aided and abetted terror."

Reporters without Borders (RSF) said Turkish authorities had rescinded 775 press cards since 2016 and hundreds of journalists' passports have been cancelled without any court approval.

The RSF 2017 World Press Freedom Index, a comparative register on each country's treatment of journalists, found Turkey to be the "biggest prison for media personnel".

The authorities have used their fight against "terrorism" as grounds for an unprecedented purge," the RSF report said.

"A state of emergency has allowed them to eliminate dozens of media outlets at the stroke of a pen."