European Journalists Raise Concerns Over Turkey’s Record on Media Rights As EU Leaders Meet

The European Federation of Journalists, the regional group of the International Federation of Journalists, today expressed concern over Turkey’s record on rights of journalists and press freedom as European leaders gathered in Brussels to decide on whether to start talks with Ankara over the country’s application to join the European Union.

“Turkish journalists still work in difficult conditions below the levels of social and professional standards enjoyed by other journalists within the European Union”, says the EFJ in a letter sent to Abdullah Gül, the Turkish Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

While the Federation has acknowledged that Turkey has made progress in improving the situation of journalism and civil liberties, particularly by revising anti-terrorism laws, it says more needs to be done. Some member unions of the EFJ have also sent a similar letter to their Minister of Foreign Affairs in solidarity with their Turkish colleagues.

As a journalists’ organisation, the EFJ has avoided taking any stance on the political substance of the application for EU membership, but it has focused concerns over journalists’ rights and press freedom

The EFJ is concerned, for instance, that Turkey has not put pressure on media owners who violate internationally-recognised union rights and do not let journalists organise within unions. This undermines the possibility of social dialogue and goes against the culture of social partnership long established within the European Union. Moreover, according to the EFJ a proposed new Trade Union Law would force Turkish journalists’ unions to merge with other unions in the communications sector thus “depriving our Turkish colleagues of their fundamental right to organise independently in defence of their specific rights.”

The EFJ says Turkish journalists suffer from press freedom restrictions and notes sanctions within the new Penal Code related to the publishing and broadcasting. The Federation also says that Turkish journalists are subject to monitoring over reports about the Cyprus crisis.

“Given the importance of the discussion about to take place, it is right to insist that Turkey takes account of the social, democratic and cultural values associated with membership of the European Union”, said EFJ Chair Arne König. “Press freedom is a benchmark of democracy and the independence, both professional and social rights of journalists' groups, are guarantors of that freedom. They must be strengthened.”

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The EFJ represents more than 200,000 journalists in over 40 countries