Intimidation mars Working Journalists’ Day in Turkey

Currently there are about 62 journalists in Turkish prisons, mostly facing trials under the Anti-Terror Law and Turkish Penal Code. (AFP/File Photo)
Currently there are about 62 journalists in Turkish prisons, mostly facing trials under the Anti-Terror Law and Turkish Penal Code. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 11 January 2021

Intimidation mars Working Journalists’ Day in Turkey

Currently there are about 62 journalists in Turkish prisons, mostly facing trials under the Anti-Terror Law and Turkish Penal Code. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Critics say the ruling government does not tolerate the slightest opposition to its official narrative

ANKARA: Turkey marked Working Journalists’ Day on Jan. 10 as media workers in the country face increasing curbs on press freedom.

Currently there are about 62 journalists in Turkish prisons, mostly facing trials under the Anti-Terror Law and Turkish Penal Code.

According to Press in Arrest, a volunteer group monitoring trials of Turkish journalists, at least 352 journalists have been prosecuted in 230 press trials over the past two and a half years.

The country ranked 154th among 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

A report by Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) revealed that journalists appeared 479 times in court over the past year for their journalistic activities.

“We even didn’t experience such oppression during the coup of 1980,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the CHP, said in a press statement.

Olay TV, a private news channel with a reputation for independent and objective reporting, was shut down by governmental pressure after being on air for only 26 days at the end of last year.

About 90 percent of the media landscape is controlled by pro-government conglomerates in Turkey.

Despite the deteriorating conditions for press freedom in the country, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan released a message to mark Working Journalists’ Day, saying: “We will never allow this concept to be abused and used for black propaganda against our country both within our country and abroad.”

In a new book, Turkish journalist Serdar Akinan has claimed that then Prime Minister Erdogan squeezed his neck in 2005 during a press conference in Abu Dhabi. “My neck hurt, but I couldn't say anything,” he wrote in his book.

Erdogan recently targeted an opposition newspaper, saying “I don’t read Sozcu newspaper. Nobody buys it.” The warning was seen as a clear sign of pressure over the media in the country.

Last year, Turkish radio and TV channels failed to cover the news about the resignation of Finance and Treasury Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, for 27 hours for fear of drawing government’s ire.

The Turkish Health Ministry removed a female journalist from its online communications group over her critical questions about social distancing rules in gatherings of state officials.

Utku Cakirozer, a lawmaker from the CHP who is a journalist by profession, said the ruling government cannot tolerate the slightest opposition to its official narrative and tries to suppress the media’s role in informing people.

“If they are sincere in their reform commitments, they should start by bringing more freedom to the media sphere. However, the trials and arrests against journalists keep increasing and journalism is still seen as a ‘major crime’ in Turkey,” he told Arab News.

Cakirozer noted that the government uses the judiciary as leverage over the media, and that political intervention into the judicial sphere further undermines press freedom in the country.

“Turkey must end the public ad bans on independent newspapers that curbs their independent journalism. However, the government uses its stick all time over them,” he said.

Last year, five dissident newspapers were banned from receiving advertisements for a total of 333 days.

Cakirozer criticized the current practice in the government’s provision of press cards to the media officials.

“Independent and dissident journalists are often denied access to this press card that guarantees them social security provisions in performing their job. Press cards should be provided by professional organizations, not state authorities,” he said.

After publishing a controversial book based on investigations about the state apparatus, two journalists from the dissident news site Oda TV potentially face a total of 158 years’ imprisonment for charges mainly filed by Erdogan’s lawyers over claims made in the book.

Ozgur Ozel, another senior lawmaker from CHP, recently claimed that the deputy of the presidency’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun called all the mainstream TV channels on Jan. 5 to tell them to end their live broadcast of the CHP’s weekly group meeting at the parliament. The directorate denied the claim.


UAE confirms record 3,529 new COVID-19 cases plus 4 more deaths

UAE confirms record 3,529 new COVID-19 cases plus 4 more deaths
Updated 45 min 29 sec ago

UAE confirms record 3,529 new COVID-19 cases plus 4 more deaths

UAE confirms record 3,529 new COVID-19 cases plus 4 more deaths
  • Dubai Economy issued 2,100 fines and warnings, and closed down 175 businesses in 2020
  • Kuwait records 570 cases, Oman reports 169 cases and 1 death

DUBAI: Authorities in the UAE on Thursday recorded 3,529 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest daily count to date, and four more deaths related to the disease.
Officials from the Ministry of Health and Prevention said the total number of cases in the country has reached 267,258, while the death toll stands at 766. A total of 239,322 patients have recovered from the disease, including 3,901 in the past 24 hours.
Dubai Economy, the emirate’s economic development authority, said it carried out 140,000 inspection visits last year, as a result of which it issued 2,100 fines and warnings, and closed down 175 businesses for failing to comply with precautionary measures designed to slow the spread of the virus.

During their latest daily inspection tours, the authority’s officials ordered one business to close, and issued 23 fines and two warnings for not following the health precautions.
Meanwhile Dubai Municipality announced it has stepped up its inspection campaigns. It added that five businesses were ordered to close, 18 were fined, and warnings were issued to 31 for lack of compliance with precautionary measures.
Dubai Tourism said it has issued more than 200 violation notices during the past three weeks and closed down about 20 establishments. It also announced that all previously issued entertainment permits are “on hold, effective immediately,” and added it will continue to evaluate the situation in consultation with the health authorities.
The General Department of Punitive and Correctional Institutions in Dubai Police has started to give the coronavirus vaccine to inmates of penal and correctional institutions, as part of the emirate’s efforts to achieve acquired immunity, according to a report by state news agency WAM.

Inmates reportedly said they were happy to be vaccinated and praised Dubai Police and medical staff in the prisons for providing them with the vaccinations, medical advice and check ups.
The Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination, in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, has launched a campaign to vaccinate people with disabilities, and their families. The effort will begin at the organization’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi, before expanding to Al-Ain and Al-Dhafra regions.

Abdullah Abdul Ali Al-Humaidan, the organization’s secretary-general, said that the vaccine is the safest and most effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19 and maintain the health and safety of the public.
Meanwhile, Umm Al-Quwain’s Executive Council informed all government agencies in the emirate that anti-coronavirus measures due to be implemented from Jan. 24 are being amended. The notice said all government employees will be required to take a PCR test every seven days, at their own expense, if they have not received the required two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This also applies to outsourced employees and public-service companies.
The council also urged all government agencies in the emirate to encourage their employees and workers to get the vaccination, which is available to everyone free of charge.
Elsewhere, Kuwait reported 570 new cases of COVID-19, raising the total in the country to 159,834. The death toll remains at 951, with no additional deaths reported in the previous 24 hours.

Oman’s health ministry confirmed 169 new cases and one additional death, bringing the national totals to 132,486 and 1,517, respectively.

In Bahrain the death toll stands at 366 after no new deaths were reported. The number of confirmed cases in the country increased by 305.