Surveys Say: Turkey Leads in Detaining Journalists

Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists Tuesday (Dec. 13) released dueling reports, with different totals, on journalists in captivity, but the bottom line was the same: The numbers are on the rise.

According to Reporters Without Borders, there are 348 journalists currently being detained, held hostage, or missing worldwide, up 6% from this time last year.

Turkey is a major offender, with the number of journalists detained there up 22%, even after quadrupling following the failed coup attempt there, according to the group.

More than 100 journalists and "media contributors" are in Turkish jails, with 41 of those having a direct link between their incarceration and their activities as a journalist.

Related: CPJ Brands Trump Threat to Press Freedom

The group says 52 journalists are currently being held hostage, with ISIS holding 21 of those and is calling for the creation of “Special Representative for the safety of journalists” within the UN (attached to the Secretary General's office), saying "many UN resolutions on protecting journalists and combatting impunity for crimes against them have yet to produce satisfactory results."

“The persecution of journalists around the world is growing at a shocking rate,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “At the gateway to Europe, an all-out witch-hunt has jailed dozens of journalists and has turned Turkey into the world’s biggest prison for the media profession. In the space of a year, the Erdogan regime has crushed all media pluralism while the European Union has said virtually nothing.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists said there are a record 259 journalists in jail. Unlike Reporters Without Borders, that count is only of journalists in government custody rather than those who have disappeared or held by non-state groups.  Turkey leads with 81 jailed according to the group, with dozens others imprisoned there, but with CPJ unable to confirm a direct link.

"Turkey is at the vanguard of this authoritarian trend. Every day that Turkey's journalists languish in jail in violation of that country's own laws," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "Turkey's standing in the world is diminished."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.