European trade unionists backs Turkish and Kurdish journalists in fight for media freedom

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The European Trade Union Congress (ETUC) in its 13th Congress in Paris on 29 September – 2 October, with the presence of over 700 trade union delegates, have unaminously voted a motion tabled by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) on Solidarity with Turkish and Kurdish journalists suffering repression. The EFJ welcomes the adoption of the motion and thanks for the support and solidarity expressed by the trade union delegates at the ETUC Congress.

The motion reads:

For freedom of speech.

In recent years journalists, trade unionists and press collaborators in Turkey – a European Union candidate country – have suffered repression at the hands of the authorities. Journalists and trade unionists are arrested and imprisoned on a regular basis, while others face violence, censorship and insults, are threatened with dismissal and are refused accreditation. There are many examples of ongoing legal cases against journalists.

Our comrades at the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) face unacceptable pressure from the authorities as they seek to defend the interests of their Turkish and Kurdish colleagues suffering repression.

These repressive policies also have a broader target – freedom of speech itself − in their attempts to censor information on a number of issues, including the plight of the Kurds, corruption allegations against the political classes, ongoing wars in the region and the counter-terrorism strategy.

Efforts to repress journalists and the media have intensified in the run-up to the forthcoming general election on 1 November 2015. It is for this reason that an emergency motion is required. Forces loyal to the ruling party have besieged the offices of Turkish daily newspaper Hürriyet on two separate occasions. Journalists from daily newspaper Zaman face regular insults and intimidation from the leaders of public institutions. In the last six months, 25 new cases have been brought against journalists from daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, and three foreign press correspondents have been expelled from Turkey in the last two weeks alone.

As recently as 28 September 2015, Turkish police raided the offices of Kurdish daily newspaper Azadiya Welat and Kurdish press agency DIHA in Diyarbakir without an official warrant, arresting 32 journalists and media employees in the process. The journalists were detained and questioned for more than seven hours before being released.

Over the last five years, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ; 600,000 members worldwide) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ; more than 320,000 members in 40 countries) have, together with the TGS, led efforts to defend the interests of journalists and human rights activists.

In mid-September this year, the IFJ and the EFJ held an international conference in Istanbul, focusing on freedom of the press and workers’ rights in Turkey. At this conference, they condemned the Turkish government’s renewed attacks on freedoms and called for workers to enjoy freedom of association. The participants also reasserted their support for the public right to information.

In a letter dated 25 September 2015 and addressed to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, our organisations and several European and international confederations denounced the current threats to freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Turkey and called for an end to the growing censorship in the run-up to the forthcoming elections.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) Congress, held in Paris from 29 September to 2 October 2015, hereby expresses its full solidarity with journalists, media staff and freelancers in Turkey, and with trade unionists from the TGS.

The ETUC Congress hereby calls on the Turkish authorities to release the 21 journalists currently in detention, to cease all legal action against journalists on the grounds of “insulting the president”, to withdraw the accreditation system, to lift the geographical barriers to information websites imposed by the Turkish Telecommunications Authority, and to cancel reform of the Press Card Commission. Freedom of association, the public right to information and freedom of speech must be respected.

The ETUC calls on the Turkish authorities to end repression against Turkish and Kurdish journalists as a matter of urgency.

There can be no democracy without freedom of the press.

 

(Photo: EFJ delegates at the ETUC Congress in Paris (from the left) Patrick Kamenka, Jonas Nordling, Paco Audije and Jean-François Cullafroz. © Berivan Öngörür)

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