By Rachel Oswald
On November 1, the National Press Club voiced alarm over deteriorating press freedom conditions in Turkey, where authorities moved this week to detain a prominent opposition newspaper editor and at least a dozen other media figures.
Murat Sabuncu, the editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, Turkey’s oldest secularist newspaper, and a number of other journalists and news executives were rounded up in police raids Monday morning, according to news reports.
The Istanbul prosecutor’s office said the detained journalists support Kurdish militants and the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, of engineering a failed July coup.
A few days earlier, Erdogan’s government shuttered 15 pro-Kurdish news organizations.
All told, 160 news outlets have been shuttered since the failed coup, according to human rights groups. Turkey is also once again the world’s leading jailer of journalists, with 130 behind bars.
“It is dreadful that press conditions in a self-described democracy have sunk to this level,” NPC President Thomas Burr said. “It is unbelievable the National Press Club has found itself speaking out regarding worsening press freedom conditions in Turkey as many times as it has in the last few years, far more than any other nation and certainly far more than should be needful for a NATO member and a critical security partner of the United States. We hope the next U.S. president will establish a policy early on that press freedom conditions and anti-democratic trends in Turkey will be a top focus in the bilateral relationship.”
The National Press Club is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists. Through its Press Freedom Committee, the club works to promote freedom of expression and transparency at home and abroad. The National Press Club Journalism Institute, a non-profit affiliate, equips news professionals with the skills to innovate, leverages emerging trends, recognizes innovators and mentors the next generation.