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Middle East

Macron to tackle Turkey's Erdogan over imprisoned journalists

media A demonstration in Istanbul in solidarity with employees of the Cumhuriyet newspaper accused of supporting a terrorist group REUTERS/Murad Sezer

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to raise the question of press freedom with Recep Tayyip Erdogan when the Turkish leader visits Paris on Friday. Over 300 journalists have been arrested and 187 media outlets closed since the 2016 failed coup in Turkey, according to campaigners.

In a New Year address to the French media on Wednesday, Macron promised to raise the "situation of imprisoned journalists, prevented from doing their job" when Erdogan visits the Elysée presidential palace on Friday.

"I will do it with respect by with the intention of defending, at the same time if I can put it that way, our values and interests, he said.

The president claimed credit for freeing French photojournalist Mathias Depardon and journalism student Loup Bureau, who were both detained last year while working in Turkey's south-east, where the military is fighting guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkey's clampdown on the press started even before the coup attempt and has seen newspapers and broadcasters closed and journalists prosecuted and imprisoned.

Some 309 journalists have been arrested since the failed putsch, according to the Turkeypurge website and the Free Journalists Initiative says that 165 are still behind bars pending trial.

Most are accused of complicity with the coup plotters or helping "terrorist" organisations.

Erdogan's visit came under fire this week from the French Communist Party, which dubbed it an insult to the relations of three Kurdish activists murdered in Paris five years ago and to Turkish Kurds as a whole.

Macron had already promised to raise human rights with the Turkish president, although trade, the Syrian conflict and the status of Jerusalem also appear to be on the agenda.

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