VIENNA (AFP)–The OSCE, Europe’s security body, urged Turkey on Tuesday to release jailed journalists and amend its media law as the number of media-related lawsuits grow.
“Currently there are more than 40 journalists in prison, and hundreds of others are facing lawsuits with potential imprisonment if convicted,” the OSCE’s media freedom representative Dunja Mijatovic wrote in a letter to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
She also expressed “growing concern [regarding] the increase in the number of ongoing lawsuits that threaten journalists with imprisonment in Turkey.”
Mijatovic noted that journalists were often tried and convicted on charges such as reporting on sensitive issues, publishing classified material or criticizing the authorities, which discouraged any critical reporting.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe “fully acknowledges the threat posed by terrorism to national security and the need to fight it,” she admitted.
“At the same time, we also stress the right of the public to know of matters of public importance,” she said. “Combating terrorism should not be used by governments to restrict media freedom.”
Only officials should be held responsible for publishing classified public documents, not reporters, Mijatovic said.
“The criminalization of breach of secrecy committed by non-officials, including journalists, could deprive the people of important information of public interest, and thus it endangers investigative journalism.”