Turkey's Media Crisis: Journalists Call for Action Plan to Confront Power of Owners

A report on the situation of journalists in Turkey issued by the International Federation of Journalists and its regional group the European Federation of Journalists today calls for a programme of action to challenge the power of media owners and demands changes in the law to protect press freedom.

The report Journalism and The Human Rights Challenge to Turkey: Putting Union Rights and Press Freedom on the Agenda follows a mission to Turkey by an international delegation in April. The delegation concludes that the country faces a twin challenge - to secure human rights and press freedom and to strengthen the position of journalists and media staff against the overwhelming power of media owners.

"The balance of power in the Turkish media industry is heavily weighted in favour of ruthless employers in a country where media concentration has reached intolerable levels," said Gustl Glattfelder, IFJ Vice President and Chairman of the EFJ. "We need to improve the social and professional status of media professionals and we need to step up international pressure on Turkey to improve its human rights record."

He said mission members were unanimous in their view that a confusing legal regime restricts the ability of journalists to organise into a trade union. "Journalists in Turkey must have the economic, social and professional strength to counter the power of media, but numerous attempts to strengthen the law to secure journalists' rights have been continuously blocked by media owners."

The report says government representatives and members of parliament admit 'off the record' that they are intimidated by the power of media owners. "The media play a dangerous game when they use the power of the press to bully politicians and to hinder social progress," said Glattfelder.

While the report says that legally approved fundamental human rights covering social and professional rights do not have any practical meaning, it makes a number of practical recommendations for change including the urgent implementation of a trade union development project for the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS).

Other members of the mission were Arne Konig (Swedish Journalists Federation), Manfred Protze (Verdi, Germany) and Barry White (National Union of Journalists of Great Britain and Ireland). The mission report is available on www.ifj.org