European Federation of Journalists

Turkey: The EU must do more to protect media freedom and human rights

A journalist attempts to shoot footage as Turkish riot police block journalists to shoot a press release in front of a pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP) office, after some of their members were detained, on October 2, 2023, in Istanbul. Photograph: Bulent Kilic / AFP.

The undersigned media freedom, human rights and journalists’ groups call on the new European Commission and the new European Parliament to strengthen their commitment to protecting journalists’ rights and freedom of expression in their relations with Turkey.

Relations between the European Union and Turkey have been at an impasse for several years with Turkey occupying the status of an applicant country in a process that has long since stalled. The EU institutions need to find a way to reinvigorate relations and ensure that the protection of human rights is front and centre of those relations.

Over the past two decades, Turkey’s government has captured over 90% of the media landscape, including direct control over the country’s public media and indirect control over much of the mainstream media through party-aligned oligarchs. It has abused the power of state advertising to create compliant journalism and weaponized the broadcast regulator, RTÜK, to routinely target broadcasters with financial penalties for critical news reporting.

The capture of mainstream media has been backed by a mass crackdown on independent media, including the arrests of hundreds and prosecutions of thousands of journalists in the years since the failed coup of 2016. While the number of journalists behind bars has fallen dramatically, hundreds continue to face prosecution leading to ever growing levels of self-censorship. During 2023, at least 207 journalists faced trial and at least 22 of them were sentenced to prison or fined with 22 convictions.

Journalists face assaults, trolling and smear campaigns from government-aligned media. The police routinely arrest journalists at demonstrations and prevent them from reporting. According to the Mapping Media Freedom database, which documents media freedom violations across EU Member States and candidate countries, since July 2023, 168 alerts have been located in Turkey.

The 2022 Disinformation Law has seen at least 30 legal actions taken against journalists in 2023 and pressured online platforms to readily self-censor content that the government deems to be disinformation or a threat to national security. Algorithmic bias already channels over 80% of news searchers on Google to pro-government media forcing independent media to exist in a restricted news bubble.

This hostile economic and judicial environment muzzles journalism and denies the public access to a plurality of media sources.

Meanwhile Turkish journalists face an increasingly restrictive process for obtaining visas to EU Member States with delays and some journalists being simply refused. This trend undermines the ability of Turkey’s journalists to build and sustain links to their peers abroad.

During a high-level delegation visit to Brussels in June 2024, invited by the outgoing EU Ambassador to Turkey, an experienced journalist was refused a visa by the Belgian Embassy, despite having an invitation from the European Commission. This and other examples of arbitrary visa denials creates another barrier to Turkish journalists’ reporting. EU Member States should immediately act to ease the process for journalists from Turkey to obtain visas for professional purposes.

We urge European governments and policy makers to ensure media freedoms and fundamental rights are placed at the heart of future relations with Turkey, and call for them to:

  • facilitate the procedure for Turkish journalists to obtain Schengen visas;
  • provide support, including direct financial grants, to media organisations in Turkey;
  • react strongly to incidents of attacks on journalists and take concrete measures to support journalists, including emergency support;
  • develop a clear, comprehensive and consistent relationship with Turkey’s authorities in order to facilitate the review of  policies and the repeal of legislation that is not compliant with international and European standards on the freedom of expression.


  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Articolo 21
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • Danish PEN
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • IFEX
  • Index on Censorship
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa [OBCT]
  • PEN International
  • PEN Norway
  • Platform for Independent Journalism (P24)
  • Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Swedish PEN
  • The Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project (TLSP)