IFJ Warns Over Crackdown on Civil Liberties and Calls for Changes in New Penal Code in Turkey

Mr. Tayyip Erdogan
Prime Minister of Turkey
By Fax:
+90-312-417 04 76
+90-312-417 05 73

Brussels, 5 April 2005

Dear Excellency,

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), representing over 500,000 journalists across the globe, along with its regional partner the European Federation of Journalists, welcome the recent parliamentary decision to postpone the entering into force of the Penal Code, and are now calling on your Government to implement the necessary changes within this law to protect the core principles of press freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey.

We are writing to you in line with the landmark declaration by an IFJ international conference held this weekend in Bilbao, Spain, on Journalism, War and Civil Liberties, in order to express our deep concern over the potential of this law to sacrifice civil liberties in the defense of public safety.

As you are aware, on 31 March the Parliament decided to defer a final decision until 1 June regarding the passage of a law which would be detrimental to the ability of our Turkish colleagues' carry out their work free from external pressures.

Over 25 articles within the law are set to restrict the rights of our Turkish colleagues to report freely and in particular may lead to the arbitrary prosecution of journalists and media with a dramatic increase in jail terms from 6 months up to 5 years.

We find such proposed changes to the legal system under your regime absolutely unacceptable and if not repealed would clearly point to an open policy of intimidation and censorship against the free press in Turkey.

While we recognize the reality of a world that has changed since September 11, 2001, we are adamant that all restrictions on journalists' freedom of movement, pressure on them to reveal sources of information and manipulation of media by political leaders on security issues are illegal and directly in contradiction of European and International standards.

With Turkey due to enter into formal talks regarding full membership of the European Union on 3 October this year, a failure to adhere to the basic legal principles of the EU would cast a shadow over any potentially successful integration procedures.

We are therefore calling on your Government to act immediately in order to amend these articles within the Penal Code and to eradicate the use of prison sentences against journalists.

We are backing some 15 journalists associations in the leadership of our affiliate the Turkiye Gazeteciler Sendikasi (TGS), in their just demands to deal with the specific threats currently posed by these articles as laid down in a letter sent to your office on 15 March and further supported by a series of demonstrations carried out during the last two weeks.

Your government has a moral, legal and ethical obligation to ensure the democratic progress of your country and we urge you to ensure the full respect for and adherence to the key role of a free and independent press in this process.

Yours Sincerely,

IFJ/EFJ General Secretary