Turkish Journalists Launch Campaign As New Rules Threaten The Right To Organise

The International Federation of Journalists and its regional group the European Federation of Journalists is backing a campaign by Turkish journalists to combat changes that could see the disappearance of Turkey’s independent trade union for newsroom staff.

“Despite all the promises Turkey has made to Europe there are unpleasant changes on the way that could damage press freedom and outlaw the right of journalists to organise,” said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ and EFJ.

White met with Turkish journalists’ leaders in Istanbul this week at a meeting on democracy and media where a series of legal and academic experts also criticised recent changes in the Turkish Penal Code that put further pressure on journalism and press freedom.

Ercan Ipekçi, General Secretary of the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS), one of the IFJ’s two affiliates in Turkey, said that government plans to encourage the creation of unions which cover whole sectors of the industry could lead to the extinction of an independent, autonomous trade union organisation for journalists. He said that the TGS had launched a campaign to fight for press freedom and for the right to maintain an independent organisation for journalists.

The union has begun a campaign to ensure "Press Freedom and to Say No to Censorship" and also published a declaration on press freedom. Ipekci explained that within the framework of the campaign, letters would be mailed to government officials and walk-outs would be organised.

“It is absolutely vital that journalists maintain the right to organise,” said White. “If these changes go through it will create a situation where Turkey is the only country in the region where journalists cannot organise freely as trades unionists. It would be a scandalous infringement of their rights.”

During the meeting, organised with the support of the Turkish Progressive Journalists Association, the IFJ’s other Turkish affiliate, White called on Turkish media professionals to play a bridging role in promoting dialogue between journalists of the Middle East and Europe over current press freedom challenges. He particularly called for action to combat growing intolerance and racism in Europe which he said was “nurtured and encouraged by unscrupulous and racist politicians” who use the media to further intolerance between Muslim groups and other communities in Europe.

This issue will form part of a debate being organised by the IFJ/EFJ in Spain in April this year, which will focus specifically on media, journalism and terrorism.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries