Turkey sees decline in media freedom, US watchdog says in report

May 01, 2012, Tuesday/ 11:27:00/ TODAYSZAMAN.COM

Although Turkey has remained a “partly free” country in terms of freedom of the press, the country's score in media freedoms decreased by one point in 2011, according to a report released on Tuesday by Washington-based Freedom House, a leading US human rights organization.

“In Turkey, which is also Partly Free, the score declined by one point as the government continued to crack down on unfavorable press coverage in 2011,” read the report, titled “Freedom of the Press 2012: Breakthroughs and Pushback in the Middle East” and released on May 1.

“Constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press and expression are only partially upheld in practice, undermined by restrictive provisions in the criminal code and Anti-Terrorism Act. Due to detentions stemming from investigations into the alleged Ergenekon conspiracy to overthrow the government, as well as a case involving suspected ties to an alleged Kurdish militant group, Turkey now has one of the highest numbers of imprisoned journalists in the world,” the report said.

Freedom House graded countries on a scale of zero (best) to 100 (worst), ranging from the most free to the least free media. According to the report, Turkey ranked 117th with 55 points among 197 countries. Turkey has been included in the category of countries which have “partly free” media.

As for the situation of media freedoms across the world, the report said “the year 2011 featured precarious but potentially far-reaching gains for media freedom in the Middle East and North Africa. Major steps forward were recorded in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, where longtime dictators were removed after successful popular uprisings.”

“While trends in these countries were not uniformly positive, with important setbacks to democratic prospects in both Egypt and Libya toward the year's end, the magnitude of the improvements -- especially in Tunisia and Libya -- represented major breakthroughs in a region that has a long history of media control by autocratic leaders,” the report said.

The report said the United States is still one of the stronger performers, but “it also experienced a slight decline in 2011 due to difficulties encountered by journalists covering the Occupy protests.”


According to the report, the world's eight worst-rated countries are Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. “In these states, independent media are either nonexistent or barely able to operate, the press acts as a mouthpiece for the regime, citizens' access to unbiased information is severely limited, and dissent is crushed through imprisonment, torture, and other forms of repression,” the watchdog said.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world and advocates for democracy and human rights. 

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