IFJ Protests Against Labour Conditions for Media and New Press Law in Turkey

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan,

Office of the Prime Minister,

Directorate General of Press and Information

Basýn-Yayýn ve Enformasyon Genel Müdürlüðü (BYEGM)

Atatürk Bulvarý No: 203

06688 Kavaklýdere-Ankara

Tel: (0312) 468 49 67; 468 49 69

Fax: (0312) 468 21 00; 426 66 17

Brussels, 27 October 2003

Dear Excellency,

The International Federation of Journalists, the world’s largest journalists’ organisation is closely monitoring recent developments for the media in Turkey, and is very concerned about the rapidly deteriorating labour conditions of our colleagues "in exile" in remote eastern and southeastern regions in your country.

There are signs of renewed and intolerable pressure being put on journalists and independent media that will undermine the credibility of Turkey’s claims to be meeting European and international standards of press freedom and human rights.

We are urging you to bring an end to the process of sending journalists “into exile” in southeastern provinces for not signing an employment contract, a punitive action which apparently denies the holder the right to a press card and is also in contravention of international labour rules.

Journalists who refuse to sign these contracts are sent on assignments to distant regions and banned from head offices. If they show any sign of resistance to these moves they are fired. In this context, we would like to draw your attention to the case of one journalist – Sinan Kara. Mr. Kara is the owner of a bi-weekly magazine, Datça Haber and was sentenced to three months and eight days in Ula prison in Mugla from November 2002 to March 2003 for failing to send two copies of his magazine to the sub-prefect, as required by the press law.

He now faces a jail sentence of up to five months for an event that occurred over 3 years ago in which the bodyguards of the son of the former Prime Minister, Tansu Ciller, attacked him as he was carrying out his professional activities.

Our affiliate in Turkey, the Progressive Journalists Association, appealed the current 5-month sentence through the Justice Minister, Mr Cemil Çiçek in July but was unsuccessful. These actions against our colleague reflect a sustained level of targeting and harassment of journalists in your country.

We remind you of your commitment, yesterday, at a meeting of your party’s Istanbul Provincial Chairmanship “to advocate freedom in all realms, including the freedoms of thought and belief”.

We also urge you to act immediately in order to break a highly dangerous trend in which a number of journalists who work for media groups such as Merkez News Agency, ATV and Sabah, have been sent on “forced vacation” because they refused to sign documents which violate their basic individual rights and an illegal new contract which is against the labour law for Press.

We are calling on you to review these cases and to adhere to your position in facilitating the working conditions and activities of domestic and foreign media

We also draw your attention to our concerns over a new draft press law, which we believe contains worrying elements, such as exceptions dealing with "Public order", "National Security" and others. Before changing the law, there must be a full public debate in which media professionals are fully engaged.

Yours Sincerely,

Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary

Further information: + 32 2 235 22 00

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries