6 October 2022: International Press Freedom Groups Condemn Turkey

6 October 2022: International Press Freedom Groups Condemn Turkey

October 6, 2022 disabled comments

Vienna 6 October 2022
International Press Freedom Groups Condemn Turkey Disinformation Bill Placed before Parliament

Law designed to criminalise free flow of information

Twenty one international media freedom, freedom of expression and journalists’ organisations call on Members of Parliament (MPs) to vote against the bill on “disinformation and fake news,” which was submitted to parliament’s General Assembly on October 4 by the governing alliance of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The bill, which was first submitted to parliament in June before being postponed after the commission stages due to alleged differences between the two governing parties, has been resubmitted this week without any amendments despite fierce criticism from across civil society and the journalistic community.

The bill provides a framework for extensive censorship of online information and the criminalisation of journalism, which will enable the government to further subdue and control public debate in the leadup to Turkey’s general elections in 2023.

The proposed bill provides for:

-Up to three years imprisonment for those found guilty of deliberately publishing “disinformation and fake news” intended to instigate fear or panic, endanger the country’s internal or external security, public order and general health of Turkey’s society.

-An increase of any sentence by 50 percent where the information has been published from anonymous accounts, by someone concealing their identity, or as part of an organisation’s activities.

-The expansion of the press law to include online news sites. This will enable the government to use the expanded role of the Press Advertising Agency, Basin Ilan Kurumu (BIK), to fund online propaganda while excluding critical outlets as has been applied in the print media.

The bill, with its vaguely formulated definition of disinformation and ‘intent’, overseen by Turkey’s highly politicised judiciary, will put millions of internet users at risk of criminal sanction and could lead to blanket censorship and self-censorship in the run up to the 2023 elections.

A consortium of media freedom and human rights organisations will be visiting Turkey 12 to 14 October to discuss the consequences of the disinformation bill with politicians and media stakeholders, as well as the challenges facing independent journalists in reporting public affairs in accordance with the principles of free and fair elections.

Signed by:

International Press Institute (IPI)

ARTICLE 19

Articolo 21

Association of European Journalists

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Danish PEN

English PEN

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Freedom House

IFEX

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)

PEN America

PEN International

PEN Norway

P24 Platform for Independent Journalism

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

Swedish PEN

The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)

________________________________________

TURKISH TRANSLATION:

Uluslararası Basın Özgürlüğü Grupları Türkiye’de Meclise Sunulan Dezenformasyon Yasa Tasarısını Kınadı

Serbest bilgi akışını suç haline getirmek için tasarlanmış bir yasa

Yirmi uluslararası medya özgürlüğü, ifade özgürlüğü ve gazeteci örgütü, milletvekillerine Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP) ve Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi (MHP) iktidar ittifakı tarafından 4 Ekim’de TBMM Genel Kurulu’na sunulan “dezenformasyon ve yalan haber” yasa tasarısına karşı oy kullanmaları çağrısında bulundu.

İlk olarak Haziran ayında meclise sunulan ancak iki iktidar partisi arasındaki görüş ayrılıkları nedeniyle komisyon aşamasından sonra ertelenen tasarı, sivil toplum ve gazetecilik camiasından gelen sert eleştirilere rağmen bu hafta hiçbir değişiklik yapılmadan yeniden meclis genel kuruluna sunuldu.

Tasarı, Türkiye’de 2023 yılında yapılacak genel seçimler öncesinde hükümetin kamusal tartışmayı daha da bastırmasına ve kontrol etmesine olanak sağlayacak şekilde, çevrimiçi bilginin kapsamlı bir şekilde sansürlenmesi ve habercilik faaliyetlerinin kriminalize edilmesi için bir çerçeve sunuyor.

Tasarı şunları öngörmektedir

– Korku veya panik yaratmak, ülkenin iç veya dış güvenliğini, kamu düzenini ve toplumun genel sağlığını tehlikeye atmak amacıyla kasıtlı olarak “dezenformasyon ve yalan haber” yayınlamaktan suçlu bulunan kişiler için üç yıla kadar hapis cezası.

– Bilginin anonim hesaplardan, kimliğini gizleyen bir kişi tarafından ya da bir örgütün faaliyetlerinin bir parçası olarak yayınlanması durumunda cezanın yüzde 50 oranında artırılması.

– Basın kanununun internet haber sitelerini de kapsayacak şekilde genişletilmesi. Bu sayede hükümet, Basın İlan Kurumu’nun (BİK) genişletilmiş rolünü kullanarak, yazılı basında olduğu gibi eleştirel yayın organlarını dışlarken, internet üzerinden propagandayı finanse edebilecek.

Muğlak bir ifade ile oluşturulmuş olan dezenformasyon ve ‘kasıt’ tanımlarıyla, Türkiye’nin son derece siyasallaşmış yargısı tarafından denetlenen tasarı, milyonlarca internet kullanıcısını da cezai yaptırım riskiyle karşı karşıya bırakacak ve 2023 seçimleri öncesinde kapsamlı bir sansüre ve otosansüre yol açabilecektir. .

Medya özgürlüğü ve insan hakları örgütlerinden oluşan bir konsorsiyum, dezenformasyon yasa tasarısının sonuçlarını siyasetçiler ve medya paydaşlarıyla tartışmak ve bağımsız gazetecilerin özgür ve adil seçim ilkelerine uygun olarak kamu meselelerini haberleştirmede karşılaştıkları zorlukları ele almak üzere 12-14 Ekim tarihleri arasında Türkiye’yi ziyaret edecek.

İmzalayanlar:

Amerika PEN

Article 19

Articolo 21

Avrupa Basın ve Medya Özgürlüğü Merkezi (ECPMF)

Avrupa Gazeteciler Derneği (AEJ)

Avrupa Gazeteciler Federasyonu (EFJ)

Bağımsız Gazetecilik Platformu P24

Danimarka PEN

Gazetecileri Koruma Komitesi (CPJ)

Gazetecilikte Kadınlar Koalisyonu (CFWIJ)

Güneydoğu Avrupa Medya Kurumu (SEEMO)

Norveç PEN

Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)

Sınır Tanımayan Gazeteciler (RSF)

Uluslararası Gazeteciler Federasyonu (IFJ)

Uluslararası PEN

Uluslararası İfade Hürriyeti (IFEX)

Özgürlük Evi (FH)

İngiltere PEN

İsveç PEN

July 2022: Maja Sever, the first woman EFJ President

September 24, 2022 disabled comments

Journalist Maja Sever (born in 1971) is the new president of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ). Maja works since 1995 for the Croatian public broadcaster HRT, was member of the Croatian radio television Program Council from 2015-19. and is President of Trade Union of Croatian Journalist

European Media Freedom Act – Joint Statement by Press Freedom Organisations

September 18, 2022 disabled comments

Vienna, 16 September 2022

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) today joins the undersigned journalists’, media freedom, and human rights organisations in welcoming the European Commission’s initiative to strengthen the free and pluralistic media system and the commitment to protect journalists and editorial independence within the European Union.

These values directly link to fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression, the right to access to information, the formation of opinion, and making informed choices in elections, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Matters relating to the media have traditionally been the competence of member states, however such is the threat posed to media freedom that an EU wide action has become necessary to protect Europe’s democratic values.

Therefore we support the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) which breaks significant new ground in our efforts to protect media freedom in Europe. The EMFA has identified many of the key issues where the EU and member states must urgently act in order to protect media freedoms. This statement of intent, alone, is very welcome.

However, if the EMFA is to become effective in the struggle to guarantee media pluralism, to protect journalists’ rights and ensure editorial independence from the impact of vested commercial and political interests, it should strengthen efforts to increase the transparency in media ownership with clear rules instead of soft-law Recommendations; introduce rules governing all financial relations between the state and media and removing the limit on state advertising transparency for over one million inhabitants; guarantee the independence of national regulators as well as the independence of the European Board for Media Services; and should expand measures against surveillance of journalists and ensure a general guarantee for the protection of sources.

The undersigned organisations look forward to continuing to engage with the institutions of the European Union to ensure that the text of the European Media Freedom Act is as robust and effective as possible and helps provide a foundation for generations of journalists to come.

Signed:

Association of European Journalists (AEJ)

Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties)

Coalition for Creativity (C4C)

Committee to Protect Journalists

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)

Index on Censorship

International Press Institute (IPI)

Media Diversity Institute, Belgium (MDI)

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

Ossigeno.info

Reporters WIthout Borders (RSF)

Society of Journalists, Warsaw

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation

Transparency International EU

World Association Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC Europe)

26 August 2022 : Reaction Turkey

August 31, 2022 disabled comments

The International Press Institute (IPI) and 18 press freedom, freedom of expression and human rights organisations call on the Turkish Press Advertising Agency (BİK) to withdraw without delay its alarming decision to revoke the right of the independent Evrensel newspaper to receive public ads, a vital source of financial income for the publication. BİK has a regulatory duty to act as an independent and fair distributor of public ads, and not to facilitate censorship through suppressing critical news outlets.

On 22 August 2022, Evrensel newspaper received BİK’s decision backdated to July 17, 2022, revoking its right to receive public ads. This move was prompted by an audit into alleged bulk buying that distorted Evrensel’s distribution figures against which measure the advertising levels are set. The right of Evrensel to receive public advertisements has been suspended since September 2019. With the latest decision, this suspended right was completely cancelled.

In its decision, BİK stated that “the public ad ban on Evrensel was observed to be suspended for a full six months without break, excluding the period when such administrative monitoring was suspended due to the pandemic, therefore its right to receive public ads was revoked”. Evrensel has the right to appeal the decision in court. Should Evrensel be removed from BİK’s system to receive any public advertising, a new, swiftly launched application process for re-gaining the right to public ads would take at least three years. This drawn-out process would be detrimental to the newspaper’s financial stability.

In the last three years, IPI and undersigned press freedom organisations have repeatedly called on BİK to withdraw the initial public ad ban that was initiated in September 2019 on Evrensel. Ten members of the European Parliament had also joined the call with a letter to then-General Director of BİK Rıdvan Duran requesting the ban be lifted. Despite an in-person meeting with Duran in February 2020, the ad ban remained in force until this latest decision.

In a judgment issued on 10 August 2022, the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that BİK’s arbitrary and consecutive public ad bans on newspapers including Sözcü, Cumhuriyet, Evrensel and BirGün, violated freedom of expression and press freedom as well as constituted evidence of BİK acting as a tool for systematic censorship and criminalization of news coverage in the country. The Constitutional Court’s verdict thus confirmed that BİK lacks impartiality towards media outlets.

Media freedom in recent years has been deteriorating in Turkey in light of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in 2023, we are concerned about the state of remaining independent media outlets, the repercussions it will have on the right to access information for the residents of Turkey who will need to rely on the existing media outlets to make informed decisions in the election calendar, and how this will contribute to an already-shrinking civic space in the country. Hereby we once again call upon the Press Advertising Agency (BİK) in Turkey to withdraw the decision to revoke ad revenues for Evrensel.

Signatories:

International Press Institute (IPI)
ARTICLE 19
Articolo 21
Committee to Protect Journalists
Danish PEN
English PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
IFEX
IPS Communication Foundation/bianet
Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
P24 (Platform for Independent Journalism)
PEN America
PEN Norway
PEN Türkiye
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Swedish PEN
The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)

Uluslararası Basın Enstitüsü (IPI) ve 18 uluslararası basın ve ifade özgürlüğü ve insan hakları grubu, Basın İlan Kurumu’na (BİK) bağımsız Evrensel gazetesinin kamu ilanı alma hakkına yönelik iptal kararını derhal geri çekme çağrısı yaptı. BİK, gazetelerin yayın hayatı için hayati önem taşıyan kamu ilanlarının bağımsız ve adil bir biçimde dağıtılmasında düzenleyici bir rol oynamalıdır, eleştirel haber kurumlarını baskılayarak sansür mekanizmasını yaygınlaştırmada değil.

Evrensel gazetesine 22 Ağustos 2022’de tebliğ edilen 17 Temmuz tarihli BİK kararında gazetenin kamu ilanı alma hakkının tümüyle iptal edildiği bildirildi. Bu karar, Evrensel gazetesinin tirajını “çoklu alım” ile arttırdığı iddialarını takiben başlatılan denetimlerin gerçekleştirilmesinin ardından geldi. Evrensel için gazetelerin tirajlarına göre belirlenen kamu ilanı gelirleri Eylül 2019’da denetim kararına kadar BİK tarafından durdurulmuştu. Bu son karar ile Evrensel gazetesinin kamu ilanı yayımlama hakkı tümüyle kaldırdı.

BİK kararında, “23 Mart 2020 ile 30 Nisan 2022 tarihleri arasında Kurumca mevzuat şartlarının aranmadığı salgın süreci hariç bırakılmak suretiyle altı ay içinde yayınlama hakkı yeniden devam etmediği anlaşıldığından, Günlük Evrensel gazetesinin, resmi ilan ve reklam yayınlama hakkının sona ermesine karar verilmiştir,” ifadelerini kullandı. Evrensel’in kararı önce BİK’e itiraz etmek olmak üzere mahkemede temyiz hakkı bulunuyor. Evrensel gazetesinin BİK sisteminden çıkarılması halinde, ilan yayımlama hakkının geri kazanımı için bugün başlatılacak bir başvuru sürecinin dahi en az üç yıl süreceği öngörülüyor. Bu süreç, gazetenin finansal sürdürülebilirliği açısından son derece yıkıcı etkiler doğuracaktır.

Son üç yıl içinde, IPI ve aşağıda imzası bulunan basın özgürlüğü kurumları, Eylül 2019’da verilen Evrensel’e yönelik ilan durdurma cezasının kaldırılması için BİK’e pek çok kez çağrıda bulundu. 10 Avrupa Parlamentosu üyesi, dönemin BİK Başkanı Rıdvan Duran’a ortak mektup göndererek bu çağrıya destek vermişti. Şubat 2020’de Duran ile IPI öncülüğünde yüz yüze düzenlenen bir toplantıda bu talep ve endişeler dile getirilmiş olmasına rağmen, ilan durdurma cezası kaldırılmamıştı.

Sözcü, Cumhuriyet, Evrensel ve BirGün gazetelerinin toplu başvurusuna yönelik Anayasa Mahkemesi’nin 10 Ağustos 2022 tarihli kararında, bu gazetelere verilen arka arkaya ve keyfi ilan kesme cezalarının basın ve ifade özgürlüklerini ihlal ettiğini belirtti. Ayrıca bu durumun yapısal sorunlardan kaynaklandığını belirten karar ile BİK’in ülkedeki sistematik sansür mekanizmasının bir aracı olarak hareket ettiği adeta teyit etmiş oldu. Böylelikle, AYM kararı BİK’in medya kurumlarına yönelik bağımsız yaklaşımının kaybedildiğini tasdik etti.

Son yıllarda Türkiye’deki medya özgürlüğü alanı gün geçtikçe daralıyordu. 2023 genel ve başkanlık seçimleri takvimi devam ederken, bağımsız haber yapmaya çalışan medya kuruluşlarının durumu, bilgiye dayalı karar verebilmek için var olan basın kuruluşlarına bağımlı kalan Türkiye vatandaşlarının habere erişimi üzerindeki olumsuz etkileri ve tüm bunların halihazırda daralmakta olan sivil alana olumsuz katkısı hakkında büyük endişe içerisindeyiz. O nedenle, bir kez daha Basın İlan Kurumu’na Evrensel gazetesinin ilan yayımlama hakkının iptalinin geri çekilmesi için çağrı yapıyoruz.

İmzacı kurumlar:

Uluslararası Basın Enstitüsü (IPI)
ARTICLE 19
Articolo 21
Avrupa Basın ve Medya Özgürlüğü Merkezi (ECPMF)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Danish PEN
English PEN
IFEX
IPS Communication Foundation/bianet
Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
P24 (Platform for Independent Journalism)
PEN America
PEN Norway
PEN Türkiye
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Swedish PEN
The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)

30 June 2022: Letter to Czech Prime MInister on eve of EU presidency and Joint Statement by NGOs

June 30, 2022 disabled comments

Petr Fiala, Prime Minister, Czech Republic

CC: Mikuláš Bek, Minister of Europe

CC: Charles Michel, President of the European Council

CC: Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission

June 30, 2022

Dear Prime Minister Fiala,

On behalf of eighteen journalists, media freedom, and human rights groups we take the opportunity of the upcoming Czech Republic’s presidency of the Council of the European Union to welcome your government’s commitment to freedom of the media and determination to advance the EU’s ability to address threats to journalism and media freedom.

The current Commission has prioritized media freedom as part of its Democracy Action Plan and has taken important initiatives in advancing the safety of journalists through the recommendations issued in September 2021, and in addressing the balance of power on the internet to preserve fundamental human rights and combat disinformation in the Digital Services Act.

In April the much-needed anti-Slapps Directive was launched and, left undiluted in its current form, can make a very significant impact on protecting journalists from being targeted by vexatious lawsuits designed to stifle public debate and prevent accountability.

And under your presidency the European Commission is due to publish the European Media Freedom Act providing a crucial opportunity to combat the threats posed to European democracy by the capture of media by political parties and governments that has become increasingly prevalent in parts of the European Union.

Media Capture as conducted by political forces can be broadly understood as the abuse of government powers to create a pliant media acting in the interests of the government. It can be divided into four key areas,

– the misuse and abuse of government funds – advertising, public subsidies or other public contracts – to boost media support for government and punish independent media

– the taking over of media regulators with politically aligned supporters that can abuse their authority to rule on media licensing and mergers in favour of pro-government media

– the manipulation of media ownership to create a bubble of government propaganda outfits – often dependent on government largess – and sidelining independent media to the edges of public debate

– the control of public media, often converted into flagrant propaganda arms.

The EMFA should address all of these areas by introducing Europe wide rules on

– Improving transparency of media ownership and funding and all financial relations between media and the government

– Ending the abuse of government funds to finance media allies and creating a hostile economic environment to independent media

– Improving the independence of media regulators, and

– Protecting public media from political interference

The Czech Presidency has an opportunity to advance the debate around the EMFA as it understands well the threat posed by media capture and the necessity for EU action.

In particular you have witnessed how public advertising and public contracts were abused by the previous Czech government to fund media close to and owned by the former Prime Minister. You have also witnessed how the appointments process for the governing bodies of the Czech TV were politicised by the previous government in an attempt to take control of the public broadcaster. And you have witnessed how media pluralism can suffer when mainstream media are taken over by oligarchs dependent on close relations with the government to protect their broader business interests.

You were elected to power on the promise of promoting media freedom, independence and pluralism and introducing reforms to end the ability of governments to abuse state funds to influence media coverage. We ask you to help replicate these actions with a strong endorsement of the European Media Freedom Act.

Kind regards,


International Press Institute (IPI)
Association of European Journalists (AEJ Belgium)
Baltic Centre for Media Excellence (BCME)
Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties)
The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
Cultural Broadcasting Archive (cba), Vienna
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Finnish Foundation for Media and Development
Free Press Unlimited
Global Forum for Media Development
IFEX
Muwatin Media Network
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
Ossigeno.info
Public Media Alliance (PMA)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Society of Journalists, Warsaw

JOINT STATEMENT

The European Commission is currently finalising the draft proposal for a European Media Freedom Act (EMFA). We thank the European Commission for taking on this task and the ambition it has to deal with fundamental threats to Europe’s media landscape.

We take this opportunity, as a coalition of journalists, media freedom groups and human rights groups, to develop our statement of 9th May and to address issues around the European single market, media ownership and transparency of economic relations with the state, and how to support a vibrant, diverse and independent media sector.

We believe the following:

– Media regulation, as a principle, should be kept to the minimum, should be strictly necessary, proportionate and targeted to address specific threats to media freedom

– The current threats to media freedom and media pluralism combined with an unprecedented rise in disinformation, especially in certain member states amply shows that the European Commission is right to bring forward a Media Freedom Act

– The EMFA should establish common principles and minimum standards of transparency, regulatory independence and media pluralism particularly to address the threat posed by politically driven media capture.

– Media freedom crises in individual member states, left unchecked, threaten media freedoms across the EU.

– Countries with healthy levels of media pluralism and strong checks and balances against media capture will benefit from an EMFA that can contribute to building similar checks and balances in fellow member states.

– The EMFA should help ensure a vibrant, sustainable and economically independent media sector able to inform the public without depending on financial support tied to political agendas.

– Journalism is a public good and, where the market is no longer able to sustain quality journalism, the government has a role to intervene and ensure it can.

We believe the EMFA should address the following:

European Single Market:
– The free flow of information across the single market is essential for the efficient functioning of the market and for eliminating corruption. The growth in transnational media groups demonstrate the economic benefits of the single market to media and of the media to the single market. The growth in cross border collaborations on investigative journalism also demonstrate the necessity and demand for a Europe wide media approach.

– The EMFA can significantly boost the media economy as a whole, and cross-border media investments specifically by reducing barriers to investments in countries suffering from media capture.

– In states with significant levels of media capture, media outlets whose owners are part of the ruling party’s political circle receive preferential state funding and other economic advantages as well as favourable treatment from politicised regulatory bodies. These media are therefore granted a competitive advantage over independent media. The sum of market distortions in such cases creates a barrier to investment from potential market actors outside the government’s circle, including foreign media companies. The single market cannot function properly, let alone flourish, in such conditions.

– It is no coincidence that hostile economic environments have been created in Hungary and Poland to foreign owned media whose editorial lines are harder to bring under government control.

– Reducing these barriers and improving the free flow of information and investments across the single market will boost investments and profitability and support a vibrant independent media sector.

Transparency of media ownership and state funding
– Knowing who owns and controls the media is fundamental for democratic resilience. Unlike many types of business, media companies have the special power to shape public opinion. Transparency of media ownership and media funding is therefore a fundamental tool to ensure media plurality, accountability and independence.

– In captured media environments, the powers behind media use complex ownership structures, offshore shell companies and other tools to exploit weak ownership registers to conceal the ultimate owners.

– In captured media environments beneficial bank loans, government advertising and public contracts in other economic sectors where media owners hold investments, have all been used by governments to bribe, threaten and reward media owners in exchange for compliant media coverage.

– The EMFA must, primarily, improve transparency of media ownership and all relations between the state and media.

– Transparency will not only improve democratic accountability but will also boost media revenues by increasing the efficiency of the market and the confidence the public have in the media products.

Fair distribution of public funds to support media pluralism
– Public support for journalism, which is a public good, can play an important role in creating a viable and vibrant media sector, maintaining diversity, quality and independence.

– However, public funding comes with the risk of misuse, particularly where advertising becomes a mechanism for state aid to pro-government media

– Therefore any mechanisms in which public funds are channelled to the media – including publicly funded advertising, media subsidies and grants – must be protected by strong conflict-of-interest safeguards, conducted through arms-length, non-political decision-making bodies and subject to clear and transparent criteria which ensure funds are directed to media with the highest standards of journalism, transparency and independence.

– The EMFA can help ensure that both EU and national funds for media are distributed in a fully transparent and fair manner, benefitting especially local media, but also small and medium size (investigative) media, and start ups.

Media concentration and a media plurality test for mergers
– The EMFA should establish a mechanism for monitoring media pluralism and safeguards that limit media concentration.

– In particular there should be a media pluralism test based on the public interest, for media mergers

– It has been argued that media mergers have been necessary for media to survive in the face of competition from the internet platforms and moreover that such mergers are necessary to preserve media plurality.

– However it is also true that media concentration by ideologically driven owners in countries suffering from media capture is an immediate and pressing threat and that media concentration limits can be an essential tool for preserving plurality.

Viable and vibrant media economy
– The EMFA should ensure that journalists are being paid for their work and benefit from revenues made on the basis of content produced by them and/or the independent media they work for.

– The dominant part of advertisement and other revenues made on the basis of content produced by independent media is currently syphoned off by social media companies. The EMFA should draw lessons from experiences and experiments like the Australian News Media Bargaining Code of 2021 and other similar forms of collective bargaining agreement aimed at paying for content shared on their platforms and/or forms of taxation in order to ensure revenues flow back to independent journalism organisations and independent professional journalists

Lastly it should be noted that while this statement primarily concentrates on efforts to protect media from capture by political forces using the powers of government, we need to underline that there is a broader threat to media pluralism and independence from non-government forces in particular Big Tech, organised crime and potentially hostile states driving misinformation.

Signed:

International Press Institute (IPI)
Association of European Journalists (AEJ Belgium)
Baltic Centre for Media Excellence (BCME)
Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties)
The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
Cultural Broadcasting Archive (cba), Vienna
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Finnish Foundation for Media and Development
Free Press Unlimited
Global Forum for Media Development
IFEX
Muwatin Media Network
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
Ossigeno.info
Public Media Alliance (PMA)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Society of Journalists, Warsaw

7 June 2022: Ten Press Freedom Organizations Demand An End to Systemic Police Violence Against Journalists

June 17, 2022 disabled comments

The Coalition For Women In Journalism and the undersigned nine national and international press freedom organizations demand an end to the systemic violence against journalists in Turkey, especially at the hands of the police. Routine weaponization of state machinery to aid in press repression in a country that claims to be a democracy is appalling. Police overreaches against the press are in blatant violation of democratic principles and the Turkish constitution. We call on the Erdoğan government to ensure effective measures to restrain the police against journalists and media workers.

The Turkish interior ministry’s failure to hold the police accountable for its overreaches and to prevent violations against the press implies complicity. The federal body oversees the police and can easily step in to prevent violence against journalists. Indifference indicates that the government is actively condoning, and benefitting from, encroachments on press freedom. The CFWIJ stresses that women journalists bear the brunt of such state policies disproportionately. We, and the undersigned press freedom defenders, call on the Turkish authorities to ensure effective measures are in place to allow journalists to report freely and without threat to their safety – from the state or otherwise.

As of June 3, the CFWIJ has documented at least 27 cases of police overreaching against journalists this year. Women journalists and media workers are routinely targeted by the police. They have been subjected to tear gas, baton charges, verbal and physical abuse, have faced excessive force, physical attacks, sexist attacks, arbitrary detentions and other types of threats in the field. The police’s hostile and aggressive attitude towards journalists is also evident in the harsh treatment meted out during raids and arbitrary “inquiries”. A sharp rise in police violence against journalists was observed this week as the authorities clamped down on public events commemorating the ninth anniversary of countrywide anti-government protests, which began in Gezi Park, İstanbul, on May 28, 2013.

On May 31, 2022, at least six journalists were detained by police in Istanbul, held overnight and prevented from covering the events at Taksim Square. Four of them were women. Flash News editors Dilan Polat, Sevda Doğan and Derin Aydoğdu, and Evrensel Daily editor Meltem Akyol were detained, beaten, held overnight and prevented from covering the events at Taksim Square. Some journalists, including at least four women, were not even allowed to reach the site and were detained while on their way. Other media workers at the public event were subjected to tear gas and manhandled by officers as police tried to disperse the crowd.

Describing the moments of her detention to the Evrensel Daily, Meltem said police officers beat her and damaged her equipment, including the camera she had strung around her neck. When Meltem told the officers that she is a journalist, a policeman said “you were not my journalist”. Another police officer threatened Meltem and said “We will show you journalism”. Meltem recounted the same in a video she posted on Twitter.

Similar incidents were reported in other public ends being held across the country to mark the 2013 protests, which lasted over a month and left scores killed and thousands injured. The next day, two female journalists were obstructed and prevented from filming a public gathering in Ankara to mark the killing of activist and protestor Ethem Sarısülük in 2013. The journalists were deliberately prevented from documenting the police’s use of excessive force to disperse the demonstrators. Despite showing their press cards, they were not allowed to reach the site.

Journalists are frequently targeted by the police while in the field and later subjected to torturous legal harassment through inquiries and trials, whereby the process serves as punishment. In this year alone, the CFWIJ has documented nine new cases and 37 ongoing cases of women journalists facing severe criminal charges for reporting on stories of public interest. Vexatious lawsuits designed to exhaust the financial and legal resources of the defendant, or SLAPPs, are commonly used to target journalists reporting news unfavorable to government higher-ups and other influential elites.

A proposed bill currently tabled before the Turkish parliament purportedly aims to combat “fake news” has been widely criticized for enabling further expansion of the government’s already controversial control over the internet and media. It also calls into question press accreditation authorized by the Directorate of Communications to existing media outlets. If enacted, the law could allow the government to further narrow down journalistic activities, critics say. The CFWIJ and the undersigned register strong protest against the draft bill. We call on the Turkish legislature to ensure the law respects the rights of the independent press as enshrined in the country’s constitution.
The CFWIJ and the undersigned stress that women journalists no longer feel safe in the field. They are harassed for their work while on the ground, in their homes and their workplaces. News media houses critical of the government are also targeted. It is extremely difficult for journalists to do their jobs while facing police violence, unwarranted raids, physical and legal harassment and detentions. The authorities must allow the independent press to do its work and hold power to account.

We invite everyone to join our campaign to raise awareness and to help us support women journalists on the ground. Join us in calling on the Turkish government to say enough to press repression, police overreaches and abuse of law to silence journalists. It is the work of the independent press to speak truth to power and hold it to account. No democracy can flourish without it and no country can hope to progress if free speech and press freedom is blatantly violated in this manner. We demand of the Turkish authorities to ensure journalists are able to report freely and safely without government interference or retaliation. Know more about violations against women journalists in Turkey here.

Signatories:
The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
Avrupa Gazeteciler Birliği Türkiye Temsilciliği / Association of European Journalists (AEJ) Turkey Representative
Parlamento Muhabirleri Derneği / Parliamentary Correspondents’ Association
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Haber-Sen / Media Communication and Postal Employees Union
Türkiye Gazeteciler Sendikası (TGS) Ankara Şubesi / Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) Ankara Branch
Çağdaş Gazeteciler Derneği (ÇGD) / Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD)
Disk Basın-İş / Turkish Press, Broadcasting and Printer Workers’ Union