A Turkish journalist observed that the threat to press freedom was a major challenge in imperfect democracies such as Malta and Turkey. The observation was made in a message sent out by Pelin Unker on occasion of the monthly protest demanding justice for slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and which was read out by an activist. The journalist also underlined the need for further cross border collaborations in order to resist the pressure that threatens press freedom.
Pelin Unker a Turkish journalist who was recently sentenced to thirteen months imprisonment for libel over her Paradise Papers reports in left-leaning Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet after she was sued by former Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and his sons. In her reports, the journalist had linked two of Yildirim’s sons to five offshore companies based in Malta. The journalist was recently sentenced, however has filed her appeal and therefore was not immediately jailed.
She further remarked that corruption grows at the same rate as the erosion of the rule of law, reiterating that, that was why journalism in both Malta and Turkey was under pressure. The journalist reminded that “journalism is not a crime” in her message.
Unker also shed some light on the state of press freedom in her country, saying that more than 140 journalists were currently serving prison sentences while some 40 journalists have been either murdered or have disappeared over 25 years in Turkey. She remarked on how journalists are silenced for their work, either through imprisonment or through assassinations.
Turkey ranks 157th out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders, which says 29 journalists are currently in prison in Turkey.