Amnesty International says tens of thousands of activists worldwide have signed an online petition calling for the release of around 120 journalists detained in Turkey following the abortive July 2016 military coup.
In a Wednesday report, the UK-based rights group said top journalists, cartoonists and world-renowned artists are among the signatories to the petition, which also wants the Ankara government to stop the “ruthless crackdown on freedom of expression” in the country.
The #FreeTurkeyMedia campaign has gathered some 250,000 signatures since February, the report said.
“A large swathe of Turkey’s independent journalists are languishing behind bars, held for months on end without charge or trial, or facing prosecution on the basis of vague anti-terrorism laws,” said Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty.
“Today our thoughts are with all journalists who are imprisoned or facing threats and reprisals, but our particular focus is on Turkey where free expression is being ruthlessly muzzled. We call on Turkey’s authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all journalists jailed simply for doing their job,” he added.
The report comes as protests are planned in different world cities on Wednesday to mark World Press Freedom Day.
Since the failed coup last summer, Ankara has closed down at least 156 media outlets, while an estimated 2,500 journalists and other media workers have lost their jobs.
Many of the journalists and cartoonists behind bars in Turkey stand accused of terrorism offences due to the online posts and cartoons or opinion pieces critical of the government.
As part of a wider post-coup clampdown, around 47,000 people have been remanded in prison and more than 100,000 public sector employees summarily dismissed in Turkey.
The Amnesty report also criticized Turkey’s post-coup state of emergency, which allows lengthy periods of pre-trial detention.
“Charges leveled against media workers are often trumped up, sometimes patently absurd or wholly lacking any evidence of an actual criminal offence,” the report added.
According to the 2017 World Press Freedom Index issued by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in April, Turkey has descended into an authoritarian government Erdogan and is currently “the world’s biggest prison for media professionals.”