Advocacy group cites Turkey press freedom crisis

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By DESMOND BUTLER, Associated Press

ISTANBUL (AP) — A prominent press freedom advocacy group is asking Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to take steps to end what it calls a crisis for journalists in Turkey.

In a letter to Erdogan dated Sept. 16, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists outlines a rash of new concerns. It cites particularly the government's attempts to control the coverage of recent events, including anti-government protests in June.

In a report last year, the group raised concerns about the prosecution and imprisonment of journalists in Turkey. The new letter, signed by CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, says that since then the Turkish government has engaged in heated anti-press rhetoric. It notes that senior officials, including Erdogan, have accused media organizations of publishing false reports to destabilize the government.

The letter notes that Erdogan accused CNN, BBC and Reuters of fabricating news in their coverage of the June protests.

"We find your suggestion that international coverage was part of a plot to subvert your government highly disturbing," Simon writes. He adds that CPJ is also alarmed by "reports of numerous firings and forced resignations of critical columnists, editors and reporters, and in apparent retaliation for their coverage" of the protests.

The letter asks the Turkish government to take steps, including reviewing the cases of imprisoned journalists, halting prosecutions in connection with reporting, and auditing law enforcement actions against journalists during the protests.

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