IPI strongly condemns new measures proposed by the Turkish government that could criminalize reporting on corruption and other public interest stories, and further restrict the work of the country’s independent media.
In the latest attack on press freedom in Turkey, lawmakers from President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) this week introduced a bill that includes prison sentences for journalists who violate rules limiting what can be published about banks, credit agencies, and other private finance sector companies.
The bill contains provisions specifically prohibiting journalists from publishing news that “undermines trust” in or “damages the reputation of” finance sector companies, punishable by 1 to 3 years in prison.
Journalist associations and rights groups in Turkey have decried the proposed measures as an effort to stifle reporting on corruption, as the AKP has come under mounting pressure from opposition parties over its ties to a group of pro-government businessmen that have received a majority of large public tenders.
“If the bill passes into law, it will be yet another affront to the freedom of the press and free speech in Turkey”, Emre Kizilkaya, the chair of IPI’s Turkey National Committee, said. He said the bill uses excessively vague terms that ban reporting that “undermines trust” and “sows confusion in the public” in Turkey’s financial sector, which will have a significant chilling effect on the press.
Journalists in Turkey are already constrained by a myriad of restrictive laws that have been used to punish critical reporting of political and business elites. Hundreds of journalists faced criminal trials in 2021, nearly half of which were for charges of terrorism, according to IPI’s monitoring data.
Journalists also must navigate criminal libel and defamation laws, frequently used by politicians and business people, which accounted for roughly 15 percent of all trials involving journalists last year. Among those facing libel charges in Turkey include prominent investigative journalists Çiğdem Toker and Hazal Ocak.
“The bill is yet another attack on Turkey’s independent media, opening the door to more spurious prosecutions against journalists”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “We urge lawmakers to reject the proposed measures and to respect the media’s right to report on matters of public interest without fear of being imprisoned.”