CPJ calls on Turkey to restore press cards of hundreds of reporters

By bne IntelliNews January 27, 2020

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Turkish authorities to restore the cancelled press cards of hundreds of reporters and establish a transparent and impartial process for obtaining press passes.

According to a statement by the Journalist’s Union of Turkey, an independent trade group, the Directorate of Communications changed the press cards’ colour from yellow to turquoise last year, and gave journalists until January 23 to reapply for new cards. The directorate then denied many of those reapplications, and on January 23 invalidated all yellow cards still in use, according to the statement.

Journalists are legally allowed to work without press cards, but the passes allow reporters to access government buildings like the Parliament, according to the union statement and a report by independent Turkish news agency Bianet.

As many as 1,400 press cards have been cancelled in recent months, Gokhan Durmuş, the chairperson of the Journalist’s Union of Turkey, said, according to CPJ.

"Turkey's decision to cancel the press cards for hundreds of journalists is yet another attack on independent reporting and is absolutely unacceptable," said Gulnoza Said, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia programme coordinator, in New York. "Authorities should immediately restore the journalists' press credentials, and should ensure that passes are granted in an impartial process.”

The cancellations were posted on the Directorate of Communications’ website with no reasoning given, according to a report by the independent leftist daily Evrensel.

Sixteen journalists at Evrensel, including chief editor Fatih Polat, had their credentials cancelled, according to the newspaper’s report. Journalists working at the leftist dailies BirGun and Cumhuriyet also had their credentials cancelled, according to a report by German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

CPJ said it was unable to find reports of pro-government reporters who have lost their press passes.

Press cards are issued by the Directorate of Communications, which operates as part of the president’s office, according to Evrensel. CPJ emailed the directorate and the president’s office for comment, but said it did not immediately receive any responses.

Turkish authorities previously revoked nearly 900 journalists’ press passes in 2016, as CPJ reported at the time.

Turkey is variously described as the number one or number two—behind China—jailer of journalists in the world.

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