15 December 2018 21:03

Government changes Press Card Regulation: Makes cancellations easier

The regulations on press cards have been promulgated in the Official Gazette. Provisions have been added that facilitate annulment.

Photograph: Evrensel

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The regulations amending the procedures and rules governing press cards have been promulgated in the Official Gazette bearing President Tayyip Erdoğan's signature. Press professional organizations have voiced dissatisfaction with the regulations that make it harder to get press cards and easier to annul them.

Annulment of the card is facilitated in the regulations. The provision, “Engage in acts that are contrary to national security or the public order or make a habit of such acts” has been appended to the section of the regulations concerning annulment.

Under the new regulations, changes have also been made to the Press Card Commission, which issues the cards. With the commission prior to the change including representatives of all unions organized in the press trade, under the new regulations a single trade union representative to be nominated by the department will be included on the commission. The section in question appears in sub-paragraph f of Article 19: “One member nominated by the Department from among members of trade unions that represent press-card-holding journalists.”

The time taken to obtain a press card for graduates of degree or postgraduate programmes relating to the profession has been reduced to six months in the regulations. For graduates with other degrees or with pre-licentiate diplomas relating to the profession, the time needed to obtain a press card is nine months, while it is twelve months for pre-licentiate graduates and eighteen months for high school graduates.

The waiting time has been set at twelve months for proprietors or corporate representatives along with board of directors’ chairs of press-broadcasting entities.

It is noted that annulments have been made easier by means of the provisions stipulating for the attributes sought of persons to be issued with a card and the situations under which it will be annulled.

The General Directorate of Press, Broadcasting and Information, previously affiliated to the Prime Minister’s office, has been attached to the Presidential Communications Department.

The Attributes sought of persons to be issued with a card and the situations under which it will be annulled are as follow:

Attributes sought of persons to be issued with a press card

Article 6 of the Press Card Regulation:

ARTICLE 6- (1) To permit those wishing for a press card to apply, they must:

a) be over the age of eighteen,

b) be at least graduates of high schools or an equivalent educational institution,

c) not be interdicted or barred from public service,

ç) not have been convicted with a custodial sentence of five years or more for an offence that was intentionally committed or of the offences of blackmail, theft, counterfeiting, fraud, abuse of trust, false testimony, perjury, fabrication of crime, indecency, prostitution, fraudulent bankruptcy, embezzlement, bribery, smuggling, bid rigging or deceitful rendering of performance and offences against sexual inviolability along with the equivalents of these offences in specific laws, even if the periods set out in paragraph three of Article 53 of the Turkish Penal Code number 5237 of 26/9/2004 have expired,

d) not have been convicted of the terrorism offences enumerated in Article 3 along with the offences committed for terroristic purposes enumerated in Article 4 of the Counterterrorism Law number 3713 of 12/4/1991,

e) not have been convicted of the offences enumerated in Articles 213, 214,215, 216 and 217 of Law number 5237 along with offences against the constitutional order and the functioning of this order, offences detrimental to national defence along with offences detrimental to state secrets and espionage offences,

f) not have been convicted of the offences contained in paragraph two of Article 25 of Law number 5187 or of inciting or encouraging these offences,

g) have entered into a contract as per the provisions of Law number 5953 and have made insurance contributions in accordance with labour legislation rules, and

ğ) not be engaged in any commercial, industrial or agricultural activity apart from journalistic activity.

(2) The requirements laid down in sub-paragraphs (g) and (ğ) of this article shall not apply to proprietors of periodicals and the corporate representatives along with board of directors’ chairs of radio and television stations and information functionaries who apply for a press card and persons who apply for a press card pursuant to Article 11, and the requirement laid down in sub-paragraph (g) shall not apply to those who apply for a press card through the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation and Anadolu Agency.

Article 29 of the Press Card Regulation:

Situations under which the press card will be annulled

ARTICLE 29- (1) Should the press card holder:

a) be determined not to possess the attributes enumerated in Article 6 or to have subsequently lost them,

b) be the proprietor of or attached to a press-broadcasting entity which is determined not to possess the attributes enumerated in Article 6 or to have subsequently lost them,

c) fail to fulfil their notification obligations set out in Article 26,

ç) make statement containing untruthful information or endorse a statement of this nature,

d) fail to make timely return of a press card that requires to be returned pursuant to Article 28,

e) commence working while being a journalist having been issued with an unattached press card in accordance with Article 27,

f) permit another to use their press card or press traffic card,

g) lose their press card or press traffic card,

ğ) engage in affairs detrimental to the honour of the journalistic profession, or

h) engage in acts that are contrary to national security or the public order or make a habit of such acts,

their press card and, if applicable, press traffic card shall be annulled forthwith by the Department.

(2) Press cards issued to state information functionaries pursuant to these Regulations may be annulled under such circumstances as the Department sees fit.

(3) Information about annulment procedures conducted in accordance with this article shall be supplied by the Department to such public institutions and establishments as it deems necessary along with press-broadcasting professional organizations.

TGS: PRESS CARD WILL ONLY BE ISSUED TO PRO-REGIME JOURNALISTS

In a statement it made on the amended Press Card Regulations, the Journalists' Union of Turkey (TGS) has called for the annulment of the regulations.

“On the heels of the closure of the General Directorate of Press and Information and the forming of the Presidential Communications Department, the Press Card Regulations have been amended. Under the new regulations, the rules governing the make-up of the press card commission have both been amended and it has been made harder to get a card. The Communications Department, previously performing a secretarial function, has assumed all powers. The Minister has also been empowered under these regulations to issue press cards to any staff it wishes in addition to the yellow press card previously issued only to Ministerial Press Undersecretaries.

Journalists convicted under such statutory articles as ‘inciting the commission of a crime,’ ‘praising crime or criminals,’ ‘inciting non-compliance with laws’ or ‘offences detrimental to national defence, the constitutional order and state secrets’ that we have frequently witnessed being stretched to suit the government will be unable to obtain press cards or will have their cards annulled.

In a period in which the independence of the law is subject to debate and hundreds of journalists are penalized in an unlawful manner for their reporting and 144 journalists are kept in jail, the amendments made to these regulations amount to stripping journalists of their press cards.

It is also impossible for us to consent to the reduction in the number of members of the Press Card Commission, previously consisting of fifteen people, to nine and the lowering to three of the number of representatives emanating from professional organisations.

These regulations are a proclamation that press cards will henceforth only be issued to pro-regime journalists.

Our call to the Communications Department Organization is for these regulations to be cancelled and for regulations to be issued in consultation with professional organizations that defend journalists and journalism.”

DİSK BASIN-İŞ: UNIONS AND PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS SHOULD ISSUE PRESS CARDS

Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK)-affiliated Basın-İş pressworkers union General Chair, Faruk Eren, speaking to Evrensel about the regulations, had the following to say: “There was a situation in which yellow press cards were not being printed for a long time. For about six months, when our colleagues have gone to the Press, Broadcasting and Information Directorate, we have known for six months or so that new cards have not been printed. They have been acting very arbitrarily of late and have been giving yellow cards to those journalists they favour and not to those they don’t. This has become even more arbitrary. Frankly, as we see it, these cards will be given to the palace’s journalists. We did not in fact regard the press card as a journalism licence. This state-issued card was not in our eyes a journalism licence. In our view, entities’ own cards, for example Evrensel’s, Cumhuriyet’s, Birgün’s or Hürriyet’s, are press cards. These cards suffice for our colleagues who work here. If press cards are really to be issued, trade unions and other professional organizations should set up a joint commission and issue these cards. The state should not issue these cards.

We have in fact of late frequently seen while working in the field the police ask journalists, ‘Got a yellow press?’ Today, with the media under so much pressure, people have tried to do journalism oriented towards alternative broadcasting and websites. The regime describes this as the opposition press and doesn’t give them yellow press cards, either. By means of the security forces, it has made working in the field difficult for any media that is not the regime media. They will not be issued, either, for reasons such as detriment to public security but there are hundreds of trials brought against a large number of journalists of which we have lost count. And this will be used as a pretext to annul yellow press cards. For example, Tuğrul Eryılmaz is one of this country’s most respected journalists. He was sentenced for displaying solidarity with Özgür Gündem. Something like not giving Tuğrul Eryılmaz a press card will now happen. This is an example. I am undergoing prosecution, too. There are a whole host of trials against me. Maybe they will annul my permanent press card, too, and the attempt will be made to hinder our field work and us from following events and doing journalism. Only one union will get in. Which union will that be? It will probably be their own union.”

TGC: THE NEW REGULATIONS FALL SHORT OF THE REGULATIONS THAT HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED UNTIL NOW

The Management Board of the Turkish Journalists' Association (TGC) made a statement with reference to the Press Card Regulations promulgated in the Official Gazette on 14 December 2018.

The following views found inclusion in the statement:

“Journalism by its nature is a profession that serves in the interest of the people’s right to obtain news, be informed and find out the truth. And it is for this reason that the attempt has been made by regimes over history to keep critical journalism under control.

However, in an environment in Turkey in which the right to a fair trial is being violated, every journalist may find themself in front of a court and be convicted. As such, the new provisions introduced under the regulations are a fresh blow to the journalism profession. The make-up of the Press Card Commission is not democratic, either.

The Press Card Regulations had been issued thirteen times since 1947 until now. On 14.12.2018, the fourteenth Press Card Regulations came into force with their promulgation in the Official Gazette. These regulations fall short of all the regulations that have been issued until now. The provisions made in the new regulations entail important drawbacks as far as the journalistic profession is concerned.

Two important requirements have been entered beneath the heading ‘Attributes sought of persons to be issued with a press card.’

By means of Article 6 of the Regulations, the requirement has been imposed for getting a press card of not having been convicted of the terrorism offences enumerated in Article 3 and the offences committed for terroristic purposes enumerated in Article 4 of the

Counterterrorism Law number 3713.

By means of the same article, it is impossible for a journalist who has been convicted of offences detrimental to public peace in the Turkish Penal Code number 5237 to obtain a card.

The requirement has been imposed of ‘Not having been convicted of the offences of inciting the commission of crime, praising crime or criminals and inciting popular hatred and enmity or not having been convicted of offences detrimental to national defence and offences detrimental to state secrets and espionage offences.’

In this context, the interpretation that the said articles are open to could mean every journalist who chases after the news ends up having their card annulled.

Additionally, as in previous regulations, we do not find it correct for legal advisers and civil servants who are not journalists to be given press cards under these regulations.

Article 19 regulating the formation of the commission is also a regulation that falls short of the provisions of the previous regulations. The number of commission members has been reduced from fifteen to nine. We do not find it correct for the commission to be ultimately created by the Communications Department alone.

We hope that an egalitarian approach will be displayed with professional principles taken into consideration in the creation of the commission under these new regulations

It is positive that workers who engage in press-broadcasting activity in a digital setting have been included within the definition of members of the media. A further positive innovation in the regulations is the prohibition on those convicted of offences against sexual inviolability getting press cards. We also greet this with satisfaction.”

ÇGD: THERE IS A WISH TO TURN JOURNALISTS INTO THE PALACE’S CIVIL SERVANTS AND WE REJECT THIS

The Contemporary Journalists Association (ÇGD) has made a statement with reference to the new Press Card Regulations. It was said in the statement that, “There is a wish to turn journalists into the palace’s civil servants and we reject this.”

The association’s statement was as follows:

“On the heels of the closure of the General Directorate of Press, Broadcasting and Information under Decree with the Force of Law number 703 and its conversion into the Presidential Communications Department, the Press Card Regulation has also been amended and the new regulations were promulgated in the Official Gazette today. The regulations, which had also previously been designed in an unacceptable manner, have assumed a truly calamitous state following the new provisions.

The new regulations can be said to convey the expression ‘press’ in their name alone. The regulations, apparently penned by people unaware that freedom of thought and expression are indispensable to the profession of journalism, wish to turn journalism into publication of the Official Gazette and journalists into civil servants. Those who for a long time have tried to cow our profession, its existence permeated with its questions, investigations and with its curiosity informed by “what,” “where,” “when,” “how,” “why” and “who,” seeing that they will not manage to succeed in this, have apparently resorted to enshrining the workings of the civil service as they imagine them into legislation, calling it journalism. However much they try, just as journalism is not a profession that is conducted by basing itself on legislation, it is and will remain to the very contrary a profession that is conducted in disregard of legislation and has universal principles. Indeed, journalism will exist for as long as it stands up to limitations and duress of this kind.

A further notable reflection of the same prohibitive mentality in the regulations is the very endeavour to equate journalism with ‘terrorist activity.’ By sprinkling various provisions in the Counterterrorism Law among the criteria for being able to get a card or annulling the card, there are machinations involving detained journalists and the impression it is desired to create is that ‘they are terrorists not journalists.’ Considering that many of our colleagues face such charges with evidence that lacks legal foundation and are held in jail, the AKP is trying with these regulations to lend legislative legitimacy to its yearning for the oppressive, authoritarian new regime that flouts basic freedoms

Alongside those based on judicial decisions against journalists, oppressive elements are also included in the regulations that are not based on any judicial decision. To ‘engage in acts that are contrary to national security or the public order or make a habit of such acts’ has been listed among the grounds for annulling a press card. This section of the regulations aims to create an intimidatory element hovering over journalists à la sword of Damocles. It would appear that the Presidential Communications Department will be able to arbitrarily annul the press cards of journalists even if there is no judicial decision against them and journalists who have their press cards annulled for this reason will be deprived for life of the right to apply for a press card.

It is apparent beyond dispute that the regulations in question breach the Constitution and statute and based on this fact we will make the necessary legal appraisals and resort to exercising our legal rights. Let nobody have any doubt that we will continue to defend our profession, which we conduct at the price of hazarding clashes with power groups, not least political rulerships, against these and similar regulations that are opposed to freedom of the press and expression.”

REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS: PURGE WITHIN THE SECTOR

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) representative Erol Önderoğlu, for his part, said in a statement he made with reference to the regulations, “The new Press Card Regulation is an unacceptable measure redolent of a decree with the force of law that sidelines journalistic professional organisations and introduces a ‘purge within the sector’ based on anti-democratic judicial decisions.” (EVRENSEL DAILY)

Translated by Tim Drayton