Turkey's journalists call for solidarity
22 September 2015
During a conference hosted by the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) and the Journalists Association of Turkey (TGC), journalists from across the political spectrum united in condemning the surge in attacks on press freedom led by the government in recent weeks.
Participants at the conference recounted how, since the inconclusive June elections and the relaunch of the conflict with the PKK in July, journalists and media have come under sustained assault from the government and their supporters.
Newspapers are regularly attacked by angry mobs, numerous websites of press agencies and trade unions are repeatedly blocked, foreign journalists are being deported, while many others are subjected to a series of prosecutions for insulting the Turkish president or simply fired from their jobs. The pressure on journalists is only expected to intensify as the country heads for an electoral re-run on 1 November.
The International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ), who jointly organised the event added their voice to the call for an end to the oppression.
Jim Boumelha, IFJ president, said:
"The government must cease this campaign to silence journalists. Journalists must unite together across the political divide to fight the bullying, intimidation and violence that threatens to pacify the profession."
Ugur Guc, TGS president, said:
"Turkish society is becoming fragmented and the country is going up in flames. As the TGS, we always call for peace instead of war. We call on our colleagues to use language promoting peace instead of using hate speech."
The international conference featured prominent speakers and panelists including Can Dundar, Sirin Payzin, Kadri Gürsel, Ragip Duran, Erol Önderoglu, Steven Ellis, Yildiz Tar, Hakki Boltan, Sibel Günes, Baris Ince. Frederike Geerdink, the Dutch journalist recently deported from Turkey, also participated to the conference via teleconference.
The IFJ-EFJ, TGS and TGC presented the Istanbul conference conclusions at a press conference on 18 September which set out a list of immediate actions to be taken in this electoral period and prioritised key issues for the long term reform of the media sector for the upcoming government post 1 November.
Immediate actions included ending the discriminatory accreditation system, enabling journalists to report the conflict and election in total freedom, reform of the press card commission to enable the professional trade union and associations to issue press cards without governmental interference; guaranteeing free movement, safety and access to information across the country; freeing the journalists in jail and ending all prosecutions; ending the censorship of the internet and blocking of media websites, promoting self regulation and respect of ethical and independent journalism and calling for journalists to avoid hate speech.
Central to the recovery of journalism in Turkey will be the rebuilding of the trade union movement and a renewed respect for employment rights for journalists with decent pay and conditions, professional recognition, job security and protection from political interference in the newsroom.
The Set Journalism Free in Turkey campaign is part of the campaign to decriminalise journalism in the country, for free speech and protected workplace rights. The project secured financial support from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) Program managed by the European Commission. All responsibilities regarding the contents and the actions belong to the authors only and should not be considered as reflecting the views of the European Union.