Press freedom campaigns and unjust prosecutions of journalists’ put spotlight on Turkey’s breach of international obligations

Source: Association of European Journalists (AEJ.org)

Press freedom campaigns and unjust prosecutions of journalists’ put spotlight on Turkey’s breach of international obligations

Reporters Without Borders has challenged the UK prime minister to hold Turkey to its democratic obligations as protests mark President Erdogan’s London visit; AEJ reports and commentaries set out the mountain of evidence showing that Turkey is trampling on press freedom and in systematic violation of the rule of law by jailing journalists and silencing opposition voices…

Latest AEJ reports and commentaries describe the growing mountain of evidence that Turkey is trampling on press freedom and is in systematic violation of the rule of law by jailing journalists and silencing opposition voices. AEJ president Otmar Lahodynsky took part in a European Parliament debate where leading European figures flatly condemned the Turkish government’s outright assault on press freedom and basic standards of justice (see below).

On Tuesday Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published its letter to British prime minister Theresa May on the day she meets President Erdogan amid street protests on his high-profile London visit. In the open letter RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire challenges Ms May to call for the release of over 100 jailed journalists and to hold Turkey accountable for upholding its own laws and international obligations regarding press freedom and the unprecedented stifling of free expression there.

The Reporters Without Borders’ letter says:

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing on behalf of Reporters Without Borders – known internationally as Reporters sans frontieres (RSF) – to urge you to raise press freedom concerns as a matter of urgent priority in your meeting with Turkish President Erdogan on 15 May. Specifically, we ask you to call for the release of Turkey’s many jailed journalists and a stop to the unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression taking place in the country, which is a source of destabilisation both for Turkey and all of Europe.

I last wrote to you in January 2017 ahead of your visit to Ankara, where you met with President Erdogan. We appreciated the response we later received from Sir Alan Duncan, but were disappointed that you did not specifically mention the plight of the unjustly jailed journalists, or the broader crackdown on freedom of expression in the country. Remaining publicly silent on these worrying issues whilst agreeing new trade deals with President Erdogan sends the wrong signal about the UK’s priorities in its bilateral relations with Turkey.

Now, 15 months after your visit, the freedom of expression situation in Turkey is more dire than ever. Turkey recently dropped to 157th out of 180 countries in Reporters’ Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index, and remains the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists. Under the state of emergency imposed following the failed coup attempt in July 2016, over 100 journalists have been arrested, more than 140 media outlets closed, and at least 889 press cards rescinded…

Read the complete RSF letter to Prime Minister Theresa May:

https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-urges-theresa-may-call-release-turkeys-jailed-journalists-meeting-president-erdogan

The AEJ’s Otmar Lahodynsky participated in the European Parliament’s event marking World Press Freedom Day, where leading European figures condemned the sweeping assault on media freedom and journalists’ rights in Turkey. Here is his summary of the meeting:

The European Parliament and the European Commission organized a seminar about the sad situation of journalists in Turkey from May 3rd till May 4th in Brussels. Some journalists from Turkey could attend and spoke out freely about the many restrictions of media freedom under the regime of President Erdogan and over 150 colleagues in jail. There was strong criticism about the attitude of the European Court for Human Rights in Strasburg – part of the European Council- which has so far accepted only a few cases of imprisoned journalists in Turkey.

„Turkey distances itself from Turkey even further“, said EP-President Antonio Tajani. „Turkey is doing the opposite of what would be necessary for joining the EU.“

„Despite all appeals the attacks on media go on in a big scale“, said EU-Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who is responsible for enlargement and neighborhood-policy. „It is not at all acceptable that so many journalists, academics and members of parliament are in jail.“ The measures taken after the failed coup from July 15th 2016 are out of proportion. And there will be no visa-free travel for Turkish citizens into the EU if Turkey does not change the law on fighting terrorism.

Read Otmar’s “profil” news magazine article on the Brussels event in German here: https://www.profil.at/ausland/mediengefaengnis-tuerkei-10057280

And on 2 May this article by Otmar Lahodynsky on “Media Freedom Under Threat” appeared in the Austrian newspaper Die Presse: It recounts how press freedom has retreated inside the EU within the past year:

https://diepresse.com/home/meinung/gastkommentar/5416231/Bedrohte-Medienfreiheit

AEJ UK member Firdevs Robinson writes every week about the unfolding events in Turkey on her widely-read “Talk Turkey” blog. Read it here:

http://www.firdevstalkturkey.com/

On 1 May Firdevs wrote about the “Difficulties of court reporting in Turkey”:

The principle of open justice is central to the rule of law, and the media play a vital role by fairly and accurately reporting court proceedings to the public. In Turkey, at a time when confidence in the law seems at an all-time low, the job of the media to act as the eyes and The principle of open justice is central to the rule of law, and the media play a vital role by fairly and accurately reporting court proceedings to the public. In Turkey, at a time when confidence in the law seems at an all-time low, the job of the media to act as the eyes and ears of the public is getting riskier each day…

Read the article in full: http://www.firdevstalkturkey.com/turkeys-world/difficulties-of-court-reporting-in-turkey/

(Read more at Association of European Journalists (AEJ.org))

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