ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey has "all but silenced independent media" in an accelerating crackdown on journalists who are being detained on "bogus charges" including terrorism, an international rights group said Thursday.
In a new report, Human Rights Watch said the government's assault on critical journalism sharpened noticeably in 2014, but gained new momentum in the wake of a failed July 15 coup, which Ankara has blamed on a movement linked to a U.S.-based Islamist cleric.
The report said that along with the arrests, there has been an increase in threats and physical attacks on journalists, government interference with editorial independence, the closure or takeover of private broadcasters and fines brought against critical news outlets.
"In the past, journalists were killed in Turkey," Human Rights Watch quoted one journalist saying. "This government is killing journalism in its entirety."
The report is based on a review of court documents and on 61 interviews with journalists, editors, lawyers and press freedom advocates.
There was no immediate response from Turkish officials. Ankara says it is fighting a multi-prong war on terror and that its security sweeps have targeted Kurdish militants, the Islamic State group and backers of the Islamist cleric, who once was an ally of the president and has denied masterminding the attempted coup.
The Human Rights Watch report accuses Turkish authorities of misusing the penal code to go after journalists with charges ranging from insulting public officials to membership in a terrorist organization.
HRW's Europe and Central Asia director, Hugh Williamson, said 148 journalist and media workers have been detained under the state of emergency the government declared after the failed coup, while 169 media and publishing outlets have been shut.
"The Turkish government and president's systematic effort to silence media in the country is all about preventing public scrutiny," Williamson said.
HRW urged the Turkish government to end the detention and prosecution of journalists based on their journalism or alleged affiliation.
Turkey has detained thousands of people this year over alleged ties with outlawed groups. It has also purged state institutions, including the military, of alleged government opponents.