Written by Sydney Wilburn
As you scroll through your Instagram feed these next few weeks– obviously “taking a break” from studying for finals– you’re likely to see a few photos like these.
But what’s going on in Turkey? I asked myself this question a couple of weeks ago when I saw a few photos with the hashtag #FreeTurkeyMedia scrawled across someone’s hand or held in front of their face on a posterboard. Knowing our society’s tendency to overlook important global issues unless they’re literally sitting on our doorstep, I decided to investigate. I learned that over 120 journalists are currently imprisoned in Turkey on charges related to a failed coup last summer. Government supporters of current president Recep Tayyip Erdogan have increased the ferocity of their search for the president’s “enemies,” which often include journalists and reporters who share a dissenting opinion of the president or government. These journalists were imprisoned for a variety of charges such as offending a government official or terrorists-related charges. Many have been held in jail for weeks without knowing their official charge.
Turkey is now being described as “the world’s leading jailer of journalists,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Amnesty International is the spearhead of the #FreeTurkeyMedia campaign, partnering with PEN, Reporters Without Borders, and Index on Censorship, among others. Reporters Without Borders now lists Turkey as 155 out of 180 countries in the world in the world press freedom index.
Many journalists, cartoonists, and activists have contributed to spreading the wood about this campaign through selfies with the #FreeTurkeyMedia message on their bodies or poster boards, Many cartoonists have taken to the visual Instagram platform to share their artwork commentary and support of those journalists still imprisoned; their artwork will be officially judged during the campaign by professional cartoonists Zunar, Steve Bell, and Martin Rowson. The Free Turkey Media campaign is leading up to a “global day of action” on World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd.
In addition to the arrest and imprisonment of these Turkish journalists, more recent media news has come into light: on April 29th, Turkish government officials banned access to wikipedia, citing a law allowing them to do so if a website poses a national threat or contain obscene material. Additionally, Turking government also recently asked Twitter to take down the profile of Mahir Zaynalov, a journalist critical of Erdogan. Several other Twitter users critical of Erdogan– some not even Turkish themselves– have been detained, imprisoned, or asked to be blocked because of their remarks on government proceedings.
This week, 29 journalists face a mass trial in Turkey as World Press Freedom Day slowly approaches. So mark your calendars and make yourself aware of the happenings in other countries’ media news, even if the U.S. media doesn’t give it proper coverage. Learn more about the Free Turkey Media campaign here and maybe post a selfie yourself to spread the word.