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Journalists call for release of jailed colleagues in wake of COVID-19 outbreak

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A group of journalists in Turkey who came together under the name of “Haberin Var Mı İnsiyatifi,” (Do you know about the initiative?) have called on Turkish authorities to take action for the release from prison of their jailed colleagues in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the tr724 news website reported.

The Turkish Parliament’s Justice Committee on Saturday approved a bill that will allow the release of up to 100,000 inmates from Turkey’s overcrowded prisons due to the COVID-19 outbreak; however, it excludes people who have been imprisoned on terrorism charges, including the country’s more than 100 jailed journalists.

The journalists in the initiative came together for an online meeting because they cannot meet in person due to the pandemic and asked for freedom for the jailed journalists before they are infected by the novel coronavirus. “Even if we stay at home, we will not remain silent,” they said.

They also launched a campaign on social media with the hashtag “May journalists be free.”

The bill will be put to a vote in the general assembly on Tuesday.

Turkey’s 359 prisons are currently operating at 127 percent capacity. According to the latest estimates, there are more than 100 journalists in Turkey’s prisons, 257,000 inmates who were convicted of a crime and 43,000 others under pre-trial detention.

Dozens of journalists were arrested in Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016 following which the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

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