Symbolic press cards issued for jailed Turkish journalists

The Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria has issued 95 symbolic press cards for jailed Turkish journalists ahead of the bilateral EU-Turkey summit in the Bulgarian city of Varna.

Turkey has become notorious as the world’s largest jailer of journalists, and has received condemnation and warnings from a range of international bodies, including the EU human rights court and international press groups. The Turkish government responds that the journalists have been jailed for crimes including terrorism, not to stunt freedom of speech.

“Journalists are not terrorists and cannot be treated as such for their work,” said the Bulgarian association in the statement on their action “Even if you put critical journalists in jail, you will not stop hearing them - others will raise their voices. We will speak with their voice.”

95 press accreditation cards bearing the jailed journalists’ credentials will be arranged on a table at Varna to highlight the Turkish journalists who are being prevented from doing their job and reporting on the summit.

“We invite the Bulgarian and international journalists who will cover the meeting in Varna to take a symbolic badge with the name and picture of a Turkish colleague and to speak on their behalf,” said the association’s statement.

The association urged Turkey to immediately release the journalists, and called on the European Union to “put the fate of the detained journalists as a condition for any rapprochement with Ankara.”

The sale of Turkey’s last prominent independent media company to a pro-government businessman this week, however, underlined that the country’s lack of press freedom goes far beyond the arrests of journalists: an estimated 92 percent of Turkey’s media firms are now government affiliated.