PACE draft report criticizes Turkey’s media environment, citing Dink assassination and Gezi Park

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) published a draft report, on Jan. 12 focusing on the deteriorating situation of journalists, independent media and freedom of speech in Turkey, among other countries; specifically citing in Turkey’s case the Hrant Dink investigation and the Gezi Park protests, Today’s Zaman reports.

The draft report titled “Protection of media freedom in Europe” calls on Turkey to fully investigate the violent death of journalist Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist who was shot by 17-year-old Ogün Samast, on Jan. 19, 2007, in front of the Agos newspaper’s office, where he served as editor-in-chief.

The draft report states: “He [Dink] had received numerous death threats from nationalist Turks. Several people, including the young gunman who carried out the killing, were convicted in connection with the murder; but public officials, including members of the security forces, [who were] suspected of complicity or trying to impede the investigation, have escaped without punishment.”

Maintaining that “journalists in Turkey still face threats to their safety and professional independence from overly restrictive laws, [and] hundreds of questionable criminal investigations,” the draft report also cites “improper government interference with the work of the media, and intolerance of criticism on the part of the government” as the reasons for Turkey’s worsening media environment.

The report also underlines that “independent media monitoring organization Bianet reported that police assaulted at least 105 journalists while they were covering the events of the Gezi Park protests,” protests which erupted in May 2013 over government plans to destroy a park located in the Taksim district of İstanbul and build Ottoman-style military barracks in its place. “Police also detained 28 journalists, some of whom were held overnight and questioned,” states the draft.

According to the draft, “the assembly welcomes the considerable reduction in the number of journalists detained in Turkey but regrets the number of journalists who are still [being] prosecuted or detained.” The report states that although many journalists have been released from pre-trial detention because of judicial reforms, more than 20 journalists are still in prison in Turkey at the time of the writing of the report.

The most recent of these operations against independent media happened on Dec. 14, when police operations were carried out at the buildings of Turkey’s best-selling daily Zaman and the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, both headquartered in İstanbul. Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı as well as Samanyolu TV chief executive Hidayet Karaca, along with dozens of journalists, scriptwriters and police officers, were detained during the operations. Karaca was charged with heading a terrorist group based on a TV series that was broadcast years ago on the Samanyolu TV station and was later imprisoned pending trial.

Although the report in its current form fails to mention the Dec. 14 police operation, the largest against independent media in the history of the country, the finalized version is still to be published and the events of Dec. 14 are expected to be added via amendments.

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