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World's Press Calls on Turkish Authorities to Respect Independent Media

The Board of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), meeting in Paris on 12th December 2015, calls for renewed global solidarity with the Turkish press in the wake of continuing attacks and the government’s hard-line stance against independent, free media.

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 marginalising opposition voices. The Board notes that the assault on press freedom was intensified ahead of November elections that returned a sweeping mandate for President Erdogan’s ruling AKP, and recognises with considerable alarm the continuance of this aggressive position that is fundamentally undermining the democratic foundations of Turkish society.

The Board of WAN-IFRA regrets to acknowledge that its May 31st resolution for the Turkish government to end its attacks on independent media fell on deaf ears. Over the summer months, journalists were hit hard by charges of terrorism as the state aimed to criminalise elements of the profession with which it disagreed. 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.

The Board was outraged by the violent assault on journalist Ahmet Hakan Coskun 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 Ipek Media Group that forcibly put the company into receivership and installed pro-government sympathisers at the helm.

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 Erdogan on the eve of the November 1st 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 colours in an increasingly ferocious manner” and urges them to free without delay Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, Editor-in-Chief and Ankara Bureau Chief respectively of Cumhuriyet daily.

The Board of WAN-IFRA yet again reminds Turkey of its obligations as a signatory to international conventions regarding freedom of expression, and it unequivocally calls on Turkey’s international partners to do more to pressure President Erdogan’s government into guaranteeing an environment that better protects media freedom and the independence of journalists.