Turkey’s press freedom remains in crisis - int’l journalism organisations

Press freedom and the rule of law in Turkey remain in crisis despite grounds for very cautious optimism, a delegation of eight international journalism organisations said in a statement released on Monday.

The statement highlighted a lack of improvement of Turkey’s press freedom since the lifting of the two year-long state of emergency rule in July 2018 and the ongoing arrest or travel bans on scores of journalists as a consequence of an ''extended, politically motivated crackdown against the media,'' independent news site Bianet reported.

Convened by the International Press Institute (IPI), the delegation, which was in Turkey for a three-day mission, included representatives from international human rights organisation Article 19, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), PEN International, Norwegian PEN, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AKP) government shut down more than 175 news outlets and jailed 135 journalists as part of a crackdown on critical media since a coup attempt in 2016.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) placed Turkey 157th out of 180 countries on its World Press Freedom Index in 2018, calling it the “world’s biggest jailer of journalists” in its 2018 report.

The delegation met with local civil society groups and journalists in Istanbul before travelling to Ankara, where it met with the Constitutional Court, the Court of Cassation, representatives of the Ministry of Justice, and the EU and other foreign diplomatic missions, Bianet said.

The delegation called on Turkey’s Constitutional Court to give priority to applications regarding detained journalists and administrative measures blocking websites, including Wikipedia, which has been banned in the country for two-and-a-half years, it said.

The delegation also noted its concerns over new rules from Turkey's audio-visual regulator, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), which expands the agency's control to online broadcasters.

According to the new regulation that entered into force on Aug. 1, all broadcasters that want to provide radio, television, and other types of broadcasting services on the internet, including on-demand services in Turkey, will have to first obtain a licence from RTÜK.

Accordingly, RTÜK will be able to file a legal complaint to demand to block access to broadcasters that do not have a licence or authorisation, or whose licence or authorisation have been cancelled.