ISTANBUL – Turkey has earned an accolade which holds no glory: according to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, it is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world.
Globally, one third of all imprisoned journalists, media workers and executives are in Turkey’s prisons, with the vast majority among them waiting to be brought to trial.
Some have been languishing in prison for months. An ongoing state of emergency was declared in July, following a violent coup attempt, blamed by the President and the government on those loyal to the cleric Fethullah Gülen. Journalists have been targeted in an unprecedented crackdown on all strands of opposition media.
Coupled with the closure of more than 160 media outlets, the message – and the resulting effect on press freedom – is clear and disturbing: the space for dissent is ever-shrinking and speaking out comes at an immeasurable cost.
Ahmet Şık: in detention since 29 Dec 2016
Ahmet Şık is a seasoned investigative journalist and is no stranger to politically motivated prosecution and imprisonment. He was held in prison for more than a year in 2011 for writing a book outlining the alleged infiltration of state structures by those loyal to the cleric Fethullah Gülen, at the time an ally of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), before they fell out.
Then last December, Ahmet was imprisoned again pending a trial, accused this time of making propaganda for the armed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and what the government calls FETÖ (Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation), which it alleges is led by Fethullah Gülen.
At first, Ahmet was held in Istanbul’s Metris prison in a dirty cell with no clean water for two days. He wasn’t allowed to see his lawyers, nor was he told they had tried to see him. Now Ahmet is back in Silivri prison, six years after he was first held there, sharing a cell with two other detainees. He can only speak to his closest relatives through a screen and by telephone once a week. Their conversations are recorded. He is not allowed to receive letters or books.
Ahmet’s imprisonment is a message to others, those who are still outside: question us if you dare, speak out if you dare.
Yonca Verdioğlu, Ahmet Şık’s wife
Amnesty International Report