“Crackdown of freedom of press in Turkey is worse than you may believe. As of today 211 journalists are behind bars in Turkey,” exiled Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt said during a conference on Press Freedom in Turkey organized by Dutch MEP Peter Van Dalen and The European Post and at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 18 April 2019.
Abdullah Bozkurt, the former Ankara bureau chief of Turkey’s biggest newspaper Today’s Zaman, had to leave Turkey after the failed coup in July 2016 as he was threatened of being arrested. He now lives in Stockholm, Sweden, where he is the director of the Nordic Research and Monitoring Network.
“People jailed in Turkey include nation’s top authors and writers. In addition to that, 168 journalists are wanted for arrest by authorities on trumped-up charges of terrorism,” he continued.
The conference took place on the day Reporters Without Border released its Index report on Press Freedom, which ranked Turkey 157 out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, defining the nation as “the world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists.”
“The targeting of journalists is by no means random,” Bozkurt said, stressing that reporters who have, in particular, written extensively on governmental corruption and on the Erdoğan government’s arming and funding of radical jihadists in Syria, were targeted in this unprecedented persecution.
“Erdoğan opened the so-called jihadist highway in 2015 allowing thousands of jihadists to arrive in Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic State in the silence of many EU countries,” Marco Gombacci, editor in chief of The European Post said during the conference. “Now, many foreign fighters are using this routes to escape from Syria after the defeat of ISIS and to come back to Europe,” Gombacci continued.
During the conference, the first printed edition of The European Post was introduced, including findings on the restrictions of freedom in Turkey, religious freedom and other fundamental rights, making Turkey an unreliable EU and NATO partner.
“Turkish army risks clashing with another NATO ally, the United States, in Northern Syria. Ankara’s soldiers and their Islamists-backed militia committed war crimes in Afrin according to a report of the United Nations released in February 2019,” Gombacci said, adding that the The Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) warned that the Islamic State is using Turkey as a strategic base to reorganize, posing a threat to the security of Europe.
Peter Van Dalen, a member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands and member of the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM), said Turkey’s membership in the European Union is not possible given the state of affairs in Turkey.