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Turkey Disputes Claims It Has The Most Jailed Journalists


Turkey's state-run news agency has reported on some of the material that police say they found when they arrested the Vice reporters. And we're going to talk about that with NPR's Peter Kenyon who's on the line from Istanbul, Turkey. Hi, Peter.


INSKEEP: What are police saying?

KENYON: Well, the state-run Anatolia news agency has a report, and it says police found footage on their camera showing masked militants making bombs or Molotov cocktails. And they also found a notebook in the reporter's hotel room that contained acronyms for banned organizations like the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party. They're the ones clashing with the security forces again these days. The article goes on to say the reporters explained to police this is all part of their reporting. They need to know who the groups are, what their objectives are. So we really need to see how the case develops, but the journalist's lawyer is calling it an effort to deter coverage, and that's something the government denies.

INSKEEP: Well, given that what you described is material that it seems, on the surface, any reporter would have if they're covering the news in that part of the country, what is it like right now to work as a journalist in Turkey?

KENYON: Well, the Turks have been ranked as jailing more journalists than anyone just a few years ago. Those numbers had been coming down, but then this week, we've seen a new crackdown. Journalists say police have searched several companies. They belong to a group linked to Fethullah Gulen. He's the Islamic scholar and self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. His supporters run some media outlets that have been quite critical of the government. An opposition politician says it's a crackdown on dissent. Basically, analysts say the environment is getting worse.

INSKEEP: Well, what does the Turkish government say about that?

KENYON: Well, they say they don't arrest people for committing journalism. They say that all of the charges against journalists are for violating security laws or terrorism laws, and these give pretty sweeping powers to authorities. The majority charged have been reporting on this conflict with the Kurdish minority. It's a very sensitive issue here. Earlier this year, there was a Dutch journalist who was held for allegedly promoting the PKK. Now that case was dropped, but now that at two-and-a-half-year peace process between the government and the PKK has collapsed, the atmosphere is getting worse, the fighting has resumed, and Turkish journalists say this story has become a lot riskier to report.

INSKEEP: Peter, I want to ask about one other thing. Here in the United States, the Pentagon has been criticized in some quarters, including, by the way, by NPR for putting out a manual that says that journalists do many of the same things that spies do, and so there may be occasions when it's fair to target journalists as belligerents, unless they're operating with the permission of the authorities. Have Turkish officials defended themselves at all by citing the Pentagon and saying we just do what you do?

KENYON: I haven't seen that specific defense, but clearly, it sounds like a very similar point of view when you look at journalists. There's no question that certain government agencies take that view, and it can cause problems.

INSKEEP: Peter, thanks very much.

KENYON: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.
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