World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


WAN-IFRA Board Press Freedom Resolution - Turkey, June 2017

WAN-IFRA Board Press Freedom Resolution - Turkey, June 2017

Article ID:

20954

The Board of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), meeting in Durban, South Africa on 7th June 2017, calls on Turkish authorities to immediately free all journalists jailed in relation to their work in Turkey, and to re-establish conditions that would support a free press in the country.

The Board of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), meeting in Durban, South Africa on 7th June 2017, calls on Turkish authorities to immediately free all journalists jailed in relation to their work in Turkey, and to re-establish conditions that would support a free press in the country.

The Board of WAN-IFRA notes with deep concern the on-going jailing of journalists, the forced shutdowns of an estimated 170 media outlets, and the mass sackings of thousands of media employees. The resulting lack of reliable, independent information can be attributed to a deliberate lockdown of information engineered by the state, with the purpose of controlling debate and silencing critics - a situation that removes accountability from Turkey’s ruling elites and severely damages Turkey’s democratic credentials.

The Board is appalled at the latest figures suggesting up to 150 journalists are currently in detention in Turkey. On top of the 30 individuals recorded jailed at the beginning of 2016, It is estimated that around 120 have been detained since the failed July 2016 coup, which the government accuses followers of Fethullah Gülen, a US-based Muslim cleric and former-ally-turned-rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), of orchestrating. Hundreds of journalists have been swept up in a series of wider crackdowns against government opposition, critics and human rights defenders, the majority of whom have reportedly been denied any semblance of due process.

The Board is deeply alarmed by authorities’ claims that those arrested are guilty of directly or indirectly supporting terrorism: ‘Gülenists’, the so-called Islamic State, outlawed leftist or Kurdish separatist organisations. The accusations are often contradictory and arrests have largely been made on unsubstantiated allegations and hearsay alone, with few of the detained having been afforded a chance to defend themselves in court.

The Board denounces any attempt to criminalise the profession of journalism and dismisses the Turkish authorities’ persistent and deliberate attempts to smear journalists by association with terrorism or terrorist-related activities.

The Board highlights the case of the 2017 WAN-IFRA Golden Pen of Freedom laureate, the former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, Can Dündar, who currently lives in exile in Germany and faces six warrants for his arrest at home in Turkey. The Board dismisses the outrageous indictment filed against him which claims that, under his watch, Cumhuriyet exceeded the bounds of free expression by “concealing the acts of terrorist organisations” and that its criticism of government policies was part of “an intense perception operation, targeting the government of the Turkish Republic and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by using asymmetrical war tactics.”

The Board equally condemns the charges brought against Mr Dündar’s successor as editor-in-chief at Cumhuriyet, Murat Sabuncu, and up to 10 of his former colleagues from the newspaper as being entirely unsubstantiated and yet further proof of the government’s deliberate targeting of opposition voices.

Despite numerous pronouncements and similarly targeted resolutions concerning the state of press freedom in Turkey over the past decade, the Board of WAN-IFRA is deeply disappointed to see the Turkish government’s apparent willingness to have allowed an already perilous situation to degrade to the extent that it has reached today. It reiterates its calls for those governments who hold influence with the Turkish authorities to exert pressure on President Erdoğan and his supporters to cease their attacks on a free press and to speak out in solidarity with journalists in Turkey. The Board similarly reminds the government of Turkey’s international commitments in respect of wider human rights and the rule of law.

Furthermore, the Board of WAN-IFRA calls on the Turkish authorities to reverse their years-long clampdown against critical and opposition journalists and the media they work for, and to instead foster an environment that is conducive to freedom of expression. Equally, it calls on the world’s media to extend solidarity with Turkish colleagues at every opportunity and to support all efforts to expose and denounce the realities of President Erdoğan’s tightening grip on power.

 

Author

Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop

Date

2017-06-02 00:13

Contact information

In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...