25 July 2019 14:04

24 July Press Festival: We want a Turkey without imprisoned journalists

24 July is the anniversary and festival of the abolition of censorship in Turkey. But today, the journalists in Turkey, welcome it a day of struggle for press freedom.

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24 July is the anniversary and festival of the abolition of censorship. As for the journalists in Turkey, they welcome this as a day of struggle for press freedom. And today, there are 134 journalists who are imprisoned, hundreds are caught in the judicial pincers. There are more than 10 thousand jobless journalists, the employment of those can find work is insecure. 95% of the media is controlled by the government. The Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) and Journalists Association of Turkey (Türkiye Gazeteciler Cemiyeti -TGC) in their 24 July statements demanded freedom for journalists.

TGC: JOURNALISTS ARE UNDER PINCERS OF CENSORSHIP

Drawing attention to 24 July’s significance as a symbol of the abolishment of censorship in press for the first time with the Second Constitutional (1908) era, the TGC statement noted “how journalists and publishers showed an extraordinary solidarity in refusing entry to censorship officials who arrived to perform their duty in the newspaper and printer offices. The following day the newspapers are printed with no censorship for the first time. For this reason, 24 July has been celebrated as a press festival by professional organisations until 1971.”

Drawing attention to the fact that the number of people refused a press card by the Presidential Communications Ministry reached 1954, the statement further noted that “while the profession of journalism is undergoing its most difficult period in history, journalists continue to be subjected to suppression by unemployment, censorship, auto-censorship, legal cases and custody. People’s right to news is infringed upon with obstacles placed before journalists to perform their profession freely. “Transparency and press freedom are integral to contemporary democracies. The way to become a contemporary plural society will be paved through the eradication of obstacles in front of freedom of press and expression. We wish to pass 24 July as a festival in a Turkey where journalists are not set as targets, are not sacked, arrested and detained because of their idea and news.”

TGS: WE ARE NOT CELEBRATING!

In the statement disseminated by TGS, attention was drawn to being subjected to even more censorship on the 111th anniversary of the abolishment of censorship, with the following facts presented:

  • 134 journalists are imprisoned.
  • Turkey is in 157th place in world press rankings
  • There are more than 10 thousand jobless journalists
  • Hundreds of press cards have been cancelled.
  • 95% of the media is controlled by the government.
  • Internet journalists are insecure.
  • Local newspapers are between the pincers of official listings.
  • Most of media workers do not have a union or do not go through collective negotiations.

The statement noted: “While Turkey is expression such a period of suppression, to talk about a ‘Press Festival’ or to celebrate this day is a disgrace,” “It should not be forgotten that once the censorship of the government and bosses is abolished, once the repression over journalists is over and our colleagues in imprison are freed, and once the media performs its function as the fourth estate, the winner will be Turkey. Until the day it can help bring the days when we can celebrate festivals, 24 July will only be a day in history for us. 24 July will be a festival once the journalists gain their rights and the society protect its news.”

ÇGD: STATE OFFICIALS ARE DIRECTLY INSTRUCTING THE PRESS

The Association of Contemporary Journalists (Çağdaş Gazeteciler Derneği -ÇGD) drew attention to the hardships experienced by journalists in its statement on the abolishment of censorship on 24 July and press festival. In the statement, it was noted that 24 July is now known as the Day of Struggle for Press Freedom in Turkey because of the manifold increase in the subjection of press to censorship. Appealing for the need for journalists to confront the dark state of affairs despite all kinds of hardship, the statement asserted that “90% of press in Turkey is affiliated economically [to the government], it has been condemned to be a side or a side politically.”

The statement noted that “on the anniversary of 24 July, some city governors and institutes will repeat the narrative of the development of press freedoms during AKP rule. They should not bother; it should be known that journalists can do without their adorned words and dry celebrations. Today is not a ‘press festival’. It is a day of struggle for our freedom of press and expression.” The statement which notes the change of hands in major media groups with government guidance, further expresses: “are press agencies dependent on government directed corporations or public agency listings? They are. Are there government officials who direct newspaper headlines, who even determine the words which will enter the headlines and who send directives to press directors through text messages? There are. Has the president himself convened press directors openly demanding support for the government’s foreign policy moves with the excuse of national interests and thereby forcing the media to abide by its ow outlook? Yes.”

“THE NUMBER OF IMPRISONED JOURNALISTS IS 137”

Noting that journalists are grappling with legal inquiries, physical assaults, closure and silencing and financial misery, the statement further detailed that “the number of journalists in prison has reached 137. If it is not the courts, it is the media regulatory body RTÜK’s broadcast bans, impediments for access and fines.” The statement also appealed to the journalists to organise for freedom of expression.  

MESSAGE FROM IMPRISONED JOURNALIST AYKOL: WE STILL HAVE MANY NEWS TO REPORT

Hüseyin Aykol, the Joint General Press Editor of the now closed Özgür Gündem (The Free Agenda) sent a message to his colleagues from the Sincan F Type 2 Prison.

The message was relayed through Tayip Temel, the HDP (Halkların Demokratik Partisi-Peoples Democratic Party) MP for Van. Introduced in the MP’s twitter account with comments “there are heartening regards from Hüseyin Aykol, the pride of journalism, to his colleagues…”, the message reads: “My message to journalists: as one of the journalist inside [prison] I wish good and beautiful news to my colleagues who are ‘outside’. We still have many news to report. Regards to each and all of you… H. Aykol , 22 July 2019 Sincan F Type 2 Prison.”

Aykol was arrested on grounds of “promoting an organisation” on 12 July having been served an ascertained 3 years 9 months sentence.

İLGEZDİ: THE MINISTRY IS CONCEALING THE FACTS

Gamze Akkuş İlgezdi, the deputy General President of CHP (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi - The Republican People's Party) also released a report on the 111th annıversary of the 24 July Press Festival. Drawing attention to increasingly difficult conditions under which journalism is practised with experiences of repression, sackings, closures and detentions, İlgezdi noted that “it has been revealed that in the first year of the Presidential System of Governance, at least 1,732 journalists were left jobless. The change of hands in media agencies and the transfer of their ownerships to people close to the government has been causing contraction and closures, with writers deemed “unwanted” for being journalists left jobless.”

Among the striking data in İlgezdi’s report is “from 2009 to 2017, the number of journalists against whom legal proceedings were opened increased by 17%. In the same interval, the number of imprisoned journalists increased by 160%.

Noting the government’s special effort to repress journalists who are performing a public duty and inform them, İlgezdi also drew attention to how the government has been frantically striving to deflect attention from the injustice committed with the non-announcement of data concerning the Press Law in: “The Ministry of Justice, which has been publishing data concerning the press law since 2009, with its decision not to publish this data in 2018, has obstructed the identification of the victimisation experienced by press workers.” (EVRENSEL DAILY)