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Council of Europe: Turkey First in Threats to Journalists

A Council of Europe report placed Turkey first in terms of threats toward journalists, including psychological violence, sexual harassment, cyberbullying, and physical assault

Cumhuriyet presented highlights from a report released by the Council of Europe on the pressure and violence to which journalists are subjected. The report, titled “Journalists Under Pressure”, which included data from EU and non-EU countries in Western, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe; the North Caucasus; and Turkey, found that many journalists in Europe are subjected to pressure, fear, and prosecution.

40% of journalists interviewed during the course of the research for the report complained of being subjected to unfair treatment in the last three years. The journalists also said this treatment affected their personal as well as professional lives.

According to a report by the Deutsche Welle Turkish service, physical assault was the most frequently reported problem. 69% of journalists reported having been victims of physical assault. 53% reported cyber harassment, 35% police intimidation, and 13% reported having experienced sexual harassment. 23% of journalists reported having been arrested, interrogated, or threatened with investigation or legal proceedings.

The region reporting the most physical violence against journalists was the North Caucasus. However, following right behind was Turkey, which led in of violent threats, with 69.2% of journalists reporting having been threatened with violence. Journalists in the North Caucasus (66%) and Eastern Europe (60%) reported slightly lower levels of threatened violence. Turkey also had the most reports of sexual harassment, with 18.3% of journalists reporting having experienced sexual harassment or violence. Eastern and Southeastern Europe led in reports of theft or damage to equipment or confiscation of equipment.

Turkey Leads in Reports of Journalist Mistreatment

Cases of psychological violence were found at high levels in all areas. According to the report, around 87 percent of Turkish journalists think they are being targeted or surveilled. In prosecutions of journalists, authorities frequently rely on laws that will also smear the name of the journalist being charged, invoking laws related to anti-terrorism, security, or state protection.

Turkey First in Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying levels were highest in Turkey. The reported levels of cyberbullying were 71% in Turkey, 59% in Southeastern Europe, and 56.1% in EU and non-EU Western European countries.

 Levels of reported threats from other sources were also highest in Turkey. 72% of Turkish journalists reported experiencing threats from police and 64.4% reported experiencing threats from political groups. The lowest levels of this type of harassment were reported in the Northern Caucusus, where only 34.8% of journalists reported such experiences.

Self-Censorship Levels Highest in Turkey

According to the report, of all of these pressures drive many journalists to practice self-censorship. Turkey was again the leader in this area, as the highest levels of self-censorship were reported in Turkey. 51% of journalists reported presenting events less critically, 42% said they had softened the tone of sensitive or critical stories, and 42% said they framed content in terms of acceptable discussions.

Journalists’ Health Affected

Journalists responding to the Council of Europe research generally reported experiencing health problems including stress, depression, or psychological issues like paranoia or fear of being followed due to the pressure, threats, or charges they experience on the job.

In his remarks about the report, Council of Europe General Secretary Thorbjørn Jagland said, “The responsibility for creating an environment in which journalists can work free from violence and threats belongs to national authorities. Only they have the power to pass laws that support journalism, create and maintain the conditions for a diverse media environment, and to investigate and punish unwarranted interference.”

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