IFJ Warns Turkey Over Media Assault on Journalists’ Rights and New Press Law

The International Federation of Journalists today warned that “punitive actions” being taken against journalists by Turkish media and a lack of clarity over a new press law may sabotage any hopes of the country’s early entry to the European Union.

“There are signs of renewed and intolerable pressure being put on journalists and independent media,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary in a letter to the country’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan, “and that will undermine the credibility of Turkey’s claims to be meeting European and international standards of press freedom and human rights.”

The IFJ is voicing concerns over the AKP government’s plans for a new Press Law that, although expressed in the language and tone of support for democratic change, also contains worrying elements.

“There are numerous exceptions to the principle of free expression which are not properly described and regulated,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. In particular, the IFJ and local journalists groups are worried by 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,” said White. “If not many will fear that Turkey is sliding back into the days of press control but by use of subtle and legally dubious means.”

The IFJ is also calling for 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. The IFJ says that 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.

“By any standards, this is a shocking state of affairs,” said Aidan White. “It shows a complete disregard for international labour standards and the need for sound industrial relations and social dialogue within media.”

The IFJ has taken up the case of one journalist – Sinan Kara – who faces being sent to jail in the coming days over this situation. “This case must be looked at again and the authorities must intervene to protect all journalists’ rights,” said White.

The IFJ is supporting the actions of its affiliates in Turkey, including the Progressive Journalists Association, which is taking up a number of cases including journalists who work for Merkez News Agency, ATV and Sabah, who 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 labor law for Press.

The IFJ says a long list of victimized journalists is already evidence of an unfair and unacceptable process of intimidation within media. “This is developing into a major crisis and demands the urgent attention of the authorities at the highest level,” said White.

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