VIENNA, 23 March 2020 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, expressed his concern today over the detention of several journalists in Turkey after they published reports on the coronavirus crisis.
According to media reports, seven journalists, including Mustafa Ahmet Oktay, owner of Halk and Pusula Newspapers; Eren Sarıkaya, managing editor at Pusula Newspaper; and İsmet Çiğit, editor-in-chief of SES Kocaeli Newspaper, were briefly detained last week in Turkey. All of the journalists were subsequently released.
“I am concerned by several instances of journalists being briefly detained in Turkey for reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic. In this time of crisis, the media has an important role to play in providing important information to the public, to counter “fake news”, and to report on issues of public interest related to the pandemic,” said Désir. “While I acknowledge that the use of emergency powers is allowed by international law in response to significant threats, such as the current health crisis, I want to remind the OSCE participating States that any emergency response to the coronavirus must be proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory.”
The Representative recalled the joint statement that he published last week with David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Edison Lanza, IACHR Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, which emphasized that: “Human health depends not only on readily accessible health care. It also depends on access to accurate information about the nature of the threats and the means to protect oneself, one’s family, and one’s community”. The three representative and special rapporteurs also stated that: “The right of access to information means that governments must be making exceptional efforts to protect the work of journalists. Journalism serves a crucial function at a moment of public health emergency, particularly when it aims to inform the public of critical information and monitors government actions”.