Building in nationalistic clothing in Istanbul after the attempted coup
Building in nationalistic clothing in Istanbul after the attempted coup Foto: Johan-Mathias Sommarström/Sveriges Radio

"Turkey is the world's biggest prison for journalists"

Four months have passed since the attempted coup in Turkey. Media have been shut down and journalists jailed. The freedom of the press and of speech have been overlooked.
   These developments in Turkey must be stopped, say thirteen representatives of the Swedish media in a joint debate piece.


President Erdogan struck immediately after the coup attempt on 15 July. Radio stations and TV channels were closed. Newspapers, magazines and publishing houses were silenced. Journalists were detained.

To date, 170 media channels have been closed down. 144 journalists are in prison. Turkey is now by far the world's biggest prison for journalists and is now ranked 151st of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
   In recent weeks, the Editor-in-Chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, Murat Sabuncu, has been arrested along with several of the newspaper's other employees. They are accused of "associating with terrorists". Days before the raid against Cumhuriyet, 15 newspapers and news agencies were banned in the Kurdish region.

Reporters Without Borders' representative in Turkey, Erol Önderoglu, has been put on trial accused of terrorist crimes and French reporter Olivier Bertrand has been expelled from Turkey. Bertrand was there on behalf of the news website Les Jours, and was working on articles about Turkey after the coup when he was arrested near the Syrian border. And earlier this year, hundreds of journalists were sacked from their jobs at the Turkish public service company TRT.
   These developments in Turkey must be stopped.

Utgivarna - The Swedish News Publishers' Association, as well as a number of other media companies and organisations, have written to Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström asking about a special UN envoy for the safety of journalists.
   During Swedish Radio's "Europe and the free word" seminar in October on the freedom of expression, Margot Wallström also made it clear that she intends to bring up the question in the UN when Sweden is a member of the Security Council next year.

We welcome this – but more is needed. Sweden should make greater demands of Turkey. For example, in what is being called the "Result strategy for Sweden's reform work with Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans and Turkey".
   In this strategy, "freer and more independent media" are a priority area in terms of both Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans. However – and inexplicably – Turkey is not included. This is odd considering what the situation was already like in Turkey when the strategy was formulated in 2014. And today, of course, it is completely incomprehensible.

The reform process is related to money. The strategy covers the period 2014-2020 and involves a total of SEK 610 million. Friday sees the deadline for applications for funding for various projects that benefit the Swedish government's prioritised results areas for reform in Turkey. Naturally, these must include the situation as regards the media and journalists.
   Given the accelerating developments in Turkey, we believe it is essential that the Swedish government's strategy is rewritten – to include "freer and more independent media" as a priority area in Turkey too.

Sweden celebrates the 250th anniversary of the world's oldest freedom of the press legislation this year. This evening the Swedish Grand Prize for Journalism is being awarded. Sweden has a proud tradition of free and independent journalism.

We want Sweden and the EU to pursue the same tradition. Therefore, we must make tougher demands on Turkey and thus provide support to journalists, the media and citizens alike.


Casten Almqvist, CEO TV4 Group

Cilla Benkö, CEO Swedish Radio

Per-Anders Broberg, CEO Swedish News Media Association

Unn Edberg, Chairperson Swedish Magazine Publishers Association

Raoul Grünthal, Chairperson Swedish Media Publishers’ Association

Anna Gullberg, Editor-in-Chief Gefle Dagblad

Jeanette Gustafsdotter, CEO Swedish Media Publishers’ Association

Viveka Hansson, Programme Director TV4 Group

Jan Helin, Programme Director SVT

Thomas Mattsson, Editor-in-Chief Expressen

Hanna Stjärne,  CEO SVT

Christel Tholse Willers,  CEO UR, Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company

Sofia Wadensjö Karén, Chairperson Utgivarna

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