European Federation of Journalists

Freedom of Media in Turkey – At rock bottom?

“It is a chronicle death of Turkish media” proclaimed by Yavuz Baydar, a journalist and columnist. Özgür Düşünce outlining the dramatic deterioration of media freedom when it comes to safety, freedom, legal restrictions and the judiciary during a panel organised by the Bussels-based European Policy Centre on 3 December. The almost complete seizure of what is left of independent media has increased prior to the November elections. Also Turkey’s public broadcaster TRT has not given any space to the opposition, which had not been the case in the June 27 elections, he said.

Cengiz Çandar, journalist and columnist for Radikal and Hürriyet gave a very personal account of his journalists’ career in Turkey.  He said while he had been able to be very critical during the dictatorship, today you will be put in prison for “insulting the President” (Article 299). Cengiz Çandar, journalist and scholar who had faced prison term for allegedly insulting a judge. “Turkey today reminds me of Germany in 30s,” he said.    “I was appalled when I saw Donald Tusk embracing President Erdogan during the recent EU-Turkey summit.”

Renate Schroeder, EFJ Director, informed the meeting about EFJ/IFJ activity in Turkey referring to the EU project on decriminalising journalists and the important work for the Council of Europe platform for the protection and safety of journalists. Out of 101 cases, 34 serious alerts concern Turkey. She quoted the response from the Turkish government on the seizure of the media holding Koza prior to the elections, an extract below: “Utmost care is shown as to the rights and freedom of the suspects by the relevant national law which are in accordance with international norms and the case law of the ECtHR).”  — She also referred to the work of the affiliate in Turkey, the TGS, the EFJ is supporting the development of trade union rights, accreditation issues, freelance rights, the issue of funding independent online journalism, and the need for greater solidarity in the media community.

Together also with Andrew Cutting from the Council of Europe’s Brussels office, who outlined CoE’s activities including a training for judges on Article 10, the meeting discussed the importance of the international institutions’ role in pushing Turkey in line with its democratic obligations.

Çandar thanked the EFJ, the CoE and freedom of expression groups for this important work of monitoring and raising the International community’s awareness of what is at stake in Turkey.

The EU cannot turn a blind eye to government repression, not only because of human rights, but also because such repression is undermining Turkey’s own stability.

Photo Credit RS/EFJ : from the left Yavuz Baydar (journalist), Cengiz Çandar (journalist) and Amanda Paul (moderator)