WAN-IFRA calls on Turkish authorities ‘to respect independent media’

WAN-IFRA calls on Turkish authorities ‘to respect independent media’

WAN-IFRA calls on Turkish authorities ‘to respect independent media’

Cand Dündar (2nd R) and Erdem Gül (2nd L) are seen before they were arrested. DHA photo

The board of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) has called for renewed global solidarity with the Turkish press, citing recent attacks on journalists and unfair trials in a resolution released after a Dec. 12 meeting in Paris.

“The board of WAN-IFRA denounces a systematic campaign by the Turkish state to attack and intimidate the press as a means of silencing criticism and marginalizing opposition voices,” read the statement by the press body.

“The board notes that the assault on press freedom was intensified ahead of November elections that returned a sweeping mandate for President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s ruling AKP [Justice and Development Party] and recognizes with considerable alarm the continuance of this aggressive position that is fundamentally undermining the democratic foundations of Turkish society,” it said.

Erdoğan is the founder of the AKP, which won back a one-party rule under Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Nov. 1, following a June 7 election that failed to produce a one-party government.

“The Board of WAN-IFRA regrets to acknowledge that its May 31 resolution for the Turkish government to end its attacks on independent media fell on deaf ears,” said the WAN-IFRA statement.

The statement continued on to highlight specific recent incidents in which journalists from both foreign and Turkish presses had been affected by state “charges of terrorism as the state aimed to criminalize elements of the profession with which it disagreed.” It added that “regular court cases and an increase in police raids against media houses helped engender a climate of fear and intimidation amongst the press.”

“The board acknowledges the release of VICE News reporters Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury in September, but continues to call on authorities to ensure their Turkish colleague, Mohammed Ismael Rasool, is released and the charges against him are dropped. Mr. Rasool has spent over 100 days in prison on charges of aiding terrorism through his work as a journalist.”

A physical attack on Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan and arrests of Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and the newspaper’s Ankara chief Erdem Gül were also cited in the statement.

“The board was outraged by the violent assault on journalist Ahmet Hakan Coşkun in October, as well as a series of attacks against Daily Hürriyet newspaper. It renews its call for a thorough, impartial investigation into the incidents as well as a strong message from the government that these kinds of attack would not be tolerated; the Board regrets the reluctance of the authorities to do so. Also in October, the board condemned the raid on İpek Media Group that forcibly put the company into receivership and installed pro-government sympathizers at the helm,” it said.

“The board of WAN-IFRA reaffirms the call to respect press freedom made in a letter signed by over 50 leading international editors and delivered to President Erdoğan on the eve of the Nov. 1 election. Equally, the Board condemns the Turkish government’s failure to provide accreditation to journalists from critical media outlets to cover the G-20 summit in Antalya. The Board of WAN-IFRA also strongly condemns the Turkish authorities for ‘persecuting journalists of all colors in an increasingly ferocious manner,’” it said while urging the release of Dündar and Gül, “without delay.”

“The board of WAN-IFRA yet again reminds Turkey of its obligations as a signatory to international conventions regarding freedom of expression,” it said, calling on Turkey’s international partners to do more to pressure Erdoğan’s “into guaranteeing an environment that better protects media freedom and the independence of journalists.”