The Steering Committee of the Brussels-based European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) on 5 November 2010, lent its full support to a campaign by the Turkish Freedom for Journalists Platform, which seeks the release of all journalists currently imprisoned in Turkey.
EFJ representatives, along with their colleagues from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) from the UK and Ireland and Belgium's General Association for Professional Journalists (AGJPB), demonstrated in front of the Turkish embassy in Brussels, to mark the organisation's fifth annual "Stand Up for Journalism Day".
An EFJ letter to Turkey's Permanent Representative to the EU, at the Turkish embassy in Brussels, Selim Kuneralp, noted that in Turkey journalists' "fundamental rights to freedom of expression are violated on a daily basis."
Meanwhile, in the Turkish capital Ankara, members of the Freedom for Journalists Platform which includes the International Press Institute's Turkish National Committee - gathered opposite the offices of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and read out a press release.
The press release entitled "We Stand Up for Freedom for the Journalists" noted that as of 30 September 2010, there were 50 press workers in Turkish prisons; six of them have been sentenced.
It added that the rising number of imprisoned journalists and the thousands of cases brought against reporters were made possible by existing articles in the Turkish Penal Code and under Anti-Terror Laws - which restrict press freedom
In addition to the 50 journalists in prison, 25 media workers have been released after being detained, but the cases against them continue, and the authorities are demanding further imprisonment.
In the case of another 29 journalists, the exact terms of 'punishment' have not yet been set because their cases are under appeal, or have been postponed for as long as five years.
This means that more than 100 Turkish journalists face threat of imprisonment in the near future.
Most of the cases against the journalists, the press release noted, are grounded on Article 285 of the Turkish Penal Code relating to the alleged "Breach of Secrecy," on Article 288 relating to the alleged "Influencing of a Fair Trial", and on Anti Terror Law Article 7 relating to the "Propanda of a Terrorist Organization."
The press release added that in this context, and combined with a gradual increase in the number of investigations, court cases, physical assaults, and threats against journalists, as well as concerns over the ongoing cases related to the murder of journalists Hrant Dink and Cihan Hayirsever, and the banning and confiscating of publications, there are fears that the crackdown on the media could intensify further.
It is not possible to speak of press freedom or freedom of expression in Turkey, according to the Turkish Freedom for Journalists Platform.
"Journalists, who are the eyes and ears of the public should be protected within the framework of professional principles and should have the right to report and communicate freely, and to inform the public," their press release said. "Articles instructing journalists 'not to write, speak, critize or comment' constitute a Damocles Sword ... ."
In the press release, the Freedom for Journalists Platform unequivocally demanded that the Turkish government release all journalists in Turkish prisons and that the government and parliament make radical amendments to Turkey's current legislation, to steer Turkey away from a dangerous course and to prevent it from "breaking off" from the world.
All of Turkey's press organizations issued press releases on 5 November 2010, to show solidarity with their Turkish colleagues.
Meanwhile, press organizations in Europe are submitting a letter to the Turkish embassies in their countries expressing their concerns over the current press freedom conditions in Turkey.
The Freedom for Journalists Platform thanked its European colleagues, notably EFJ, for their solidarity.
IPI Board Member Ferai Tinc, who is also the president of IPI's Turkish National Committee, said: "This is the first time in our country that 23 journalists' associations have come together for freedom of the press in Turkey. We stated our demands and asked for for the clearing out of all articles threatening press freedom, notably from the Constitution, and also from the Turkish Penal Code, and Anti-Terror Law. We believe that this international solidarity will contribute to freedom of the press in Turkey. The Freedom for Journalists Platform of which IPI Turkey is a member - will continue its struggle until our demands are fulfilled."
IPI Press Freedom Manager Anthony Mills said: "It is great to see the European Federation of Journalists throw its weight behind Turkey's Freedom for Journalists Platform in its efforts to seek the release of the 50 journalists currently imprisoned in Turkey. It is unacceptable that journalists be tried and imprisoned because of their work. As we have noted before, it is essential that Turkey bring its treatment of journalists into line with universal human rights standards."
Oliver Vujovic, Secretary General of SEEMO, said, "It is encouraging to note the solidarity in the media community in Turkey and as a whole, for the cause of these imprisoned journalists. We call on the Turkish government to heed the demands of the journalists associations, and to ensure that all undue restrictions on journalists are removed."
The Freedom for Journalists Platform includes:
The Turkish Journalists' Association, The Turkish Journalists' Trade Union, The Turkish Journalists' Federation, the Press Council, the Press Institute (IPI Turkey), the Contemporary Journalists' Organisation, the Diplomacy Reporters' Ass., the Economy Reporters' Ass., the Ankara Journalists' Ass., the Newspaper Owners' Ass., Haber-Sen, the Izmir Journalists' Ass., the Culture, Tourism and Environment Journalists' Ass., the Media Ethics Ass., the Professional Reporters' and Cameramens' Ass., the Parliament Reporters' Ass., the Turkish Photo Reporters Ass., Turkish Sports Reporters' Ass., the AEJ Turkish representative, the Economy Newspapers Ass., the Environment and Training Reporters' Ass., the Press Foundation of Journalists' Ass., and the Ugur Mumcu Investigative Journalism Foundation.
The South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) supports the statements made.
****For further information, please contact:
SEEMO Press Freedom Coordinator
South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)