Erdoğan says he wishes for a Turkey with a freer press

A journalist holds a placard reading "free media" during a demonstration for the World Press Freedom Day on the Istiklal avenue, in Istanbul, on May 3, 2017. According to the P24 press freedom website on April 4, 2017, there are 141 journalists behind bars in Turkey, most of whom were detained as part of the state of emergency imposed after the failed coup. / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose government has jailed scores of critical journalists and closed down hundreds of media outlets, has said he wishes for a Turkey that has a freer press, the Cumhuriyet daily reported.

Speaking at an award ceremony organized by the Radio and TV Journalists’ Foundation on Thursday evening, Erdoğan said: “We wish for a Turkey that has a freer press and is pluralistic. Turkey cannot make concessions on freedom of the press or on its national security.”

Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government are severely criticized for silencing the free press in the country through the closure of media outlets and the arrest of journalists and creating a staunchly pro-government media, which acts as a government mouthpiece.

A government-led crackdown on the free media in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in July 2016 culminated in a massive purge on non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

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