World Bulletin / News Desk
It is slander to suggest that people are arrested for their journalistic activities in Turkey, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said Wednesday.
"Those who say that journalists are arrested in Turkey just because they are doing their job are slandering. No one is jailed in Turkey for journalistic activities," Bozdag told.
Terming such reports by international media organizations as a "smear campaign," and a "dirty operation" against Turkey, he said that one should carefully review the accuracy of such reports.
"Such reports create an impression that anyone who writes for a newspaper in Turkey is arrested the following day after the story gets published,” he added.
Referring in particular to the 2014 report of the Committee to Protect Journalists, the minister said the committee members had met him after the report was published.
"We went over each of the seven names on the list of their report and the crimes committed by them," Bozdag said.
"We found that the people on the list were convicted and sent to prison on various charges, including bombing police stations, killing military or police officers, illicit drugs, possession of weapons, arms smuggling, forgery and bank robbery," he said.
He said that all those crimes were committed before the ruling Justice and Development Party came to power, and court verdicts in the concerned cases were final.
Everyone except for one person on the CPJ list was now out of jail.
"If it is proved that anyone on that list was interrogated for their journalistic activities, then we are ready to fight and contest the claim. We actually called on all such people to come forward. However, so far, not a single application has been filed," he said.
Bozdag called on those who criticized Turkey to compare stories written about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and those about Western leaders.
“If they say there is no freedom of expression in Turkey, then I will also struggle alongside with them,” he said.
He added that four out of five best-selling newspapers in the country publish articles critical of the government.
The minister also said that Turkey took several significant steps in favor of the press in the country. He recalled that the government removed an article from the country’s constitution that could have been used to seize equipment such as printing press, pens and paintings as crime tools.
"We have revoked a primitive legal regulation permitting the seizure of unpublished works. But despite all, there is a smear campaign against us about the state of press freedom in the country," he said.
Bozdag also said that Turkey was ready to cooperate with journalist organizations, Council of Europe and European Union over the issue.