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The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives, and journalists for press freedom, urges the government of Turkey to release all journalists in pretrial detention while their cases are being heard in the courts.

In a statement to mark the Working Journalists’ Day in Turkey, IPI expresses serious concerns over the deteriorating state of press freedom in the country, which currently has the largest number of working journalists in prison.

While President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claims that over his 16-year leadership of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) media in the country have prospered and have even been emancipated thanks to press freedom reforms, the figures tell a much different story.

According to IPI’s data on jailed journalists in Turkey, there are at least 157 journalists currently in prison for their journalistic work. Of these, 127 were arrested or convicted after the attempted coup in July 2016. Thirty journalists were already behind bars before that date.

Since the attempted coup in July 2016, at least 211 journalists and media executives have been subject to prosecution or have been arrested or detained. Of this number, 52 have been convicted, 75 are still under arrest and 84 have been released. In all, journalists have been sentenced to a total of 492 years, 11 months and 8 days in prison, mostly on terror-related charges, such as membership in a terror organization or spreading terrorist propaganda via press, or on defamation charges. In addition, five journalists received life sentences on charges of “violation of the constitution” in relation to the coup attempt.

During the two-year state of emergency imposed following the coup attempt of July 15, 2016, 166 media outlets including newspapers, radio stations, printing houses, were shut down by governmental decree.

“At IPI we work to support press freedom and an independent and critical media in Turkey. Whilst 157 journalists are still imprisoned, mostly for their normal journalistic work, the claims of the government that there are no issues surrounding the freedom of the press are far from true”, IPI Turkey Advocacy Coordinator Caroline Stockford said. “We call upon the president to encourage a plurality of voices in Turkey’s media and to ensure the release of all journalists in pretrial detention immediately.”