EJN among press freedom groups awarded by Turkish journalists

Tom Law

The Journalists Association of Turkey (TGC) on 18 August gave a 2016 Press Freedom Award to a coalition of international organisations, including the Ethical Journalism Network,to recognise the efforts of that have been working together to defend independent journalism against the erosion of press freedom Turkey.

The International Press Institute, first organised the coalition’s press freedom mission to Turkey in October 2015 in the run-up to parliamentary elections last year. As pressure on independent journalists increased the coalition showed solidarity with Turkish colleagues by raising awareness of the deteriorating press freedom situation internationally.

Along with representatives from the other organisations, including Kadri Gürsel the chair of IPI’s Turkey National Committee, accepted the award on behalf of the Ethical Journalism Network. Ceren Sözeri, the EJN representative in Turkey who has played an active role in the coalition, was unable to attend the ceremony.

Rachael Jolley, deputy chief executive of Index on Censorship said: “Press freedom cannot be taken for granted in any country and requires us to be constantly vigilant. As the post-coup crackdown continues, Index’s project Mapping Media Freedom is registering threats to the media, as well as publishing work from censored journalists, to help bring international attention to the issues.”

Kadri Gürsel, who is also an IPI Executive Board Member, noted that collective action will continue to be essential as pressure on independent media increases with the emergency measures put in place following the failed coup attempt in July.

Below is the full text of Kadri Gürsel’s remarks.

Honourable Chair,
Esteemed Jury members,
Fellow members of Journalists Association of Turkey,
Dear Guests,

Last year, Turkey provoked the creation of something that was the first of its kind in the world.

Almost all international press freedom organisations came together in order to form a coalition to defend the right of journalists in this country to perform their profession freely; a reaction to the political power having increased its repression of the freedom of the press to unprecedented levels in between the two elections.

The highly representative joint emergency press freedom mission of eight international organisations to Turkey on 19 to 21 October 2015 was the first of its kind in the world.

The mission was comprised of international and local representatives from the International Press Institute (IPI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Index on Censorship, ARTICLE 19 and the Ethical Journalism Network.

IPI’s Turkish National Committee and the Union of Journalists of Turkey, a member of the EFJ, endorsed the mission.

Showing solidarity with journalists in Turkey and underlining the fact in Turkey and abroad that growing pressure on independent media would jeopardise free and fair elections in the country – and of course demanding an immediate end to this pressure – were among the objectives of the mission.

The mission met with representatives of 20 media outlets in Istanbul and Ankara. It met with the representatives of opposition parties. It was impossible to get an appointment from the ruling party and from the office of President Erdogan.

The facts collected on the state of the freedom of the press in Turkey were shared with the world in a mission report published on Oct. 31, 2015. Suggestions were also made to make the situation better.

Despite its ad-hoc character, the coalition of international press freedom organisations for Turkey continued its activities with the participation of additional organisations.

The coalition coordinated the call of 50 leading editors around the world who on Oct. 30, 2015 urged President Erdogan to protect press freedom in Turkey.

It made a joint statement for the release of Cumhuriyet journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, on Dec. 1, 2015.

The coalition made a joint statement to support a mission by RSF to Istanbul with the same purpose.

Representatives of organisations forming the coalition on Jan. 26, 2016 repeated their call for the release of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül at the gates of Silivri prison in Istanbul where the two journalists were held.

The coalition called on Turkey to drop all charges against the Cumhuriyet journalists on March 24, a day before their politically motivated trial.

Coalition members have also been active in submitting alerts to the Council of Europe’s platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists.

I’m standing here today on behalf of the coalition of international press freedom organisations for Turkey to receive this year’s Press Freedom Award of the Journalists Association of Turkey on the category of Institutions, given to the coalition.

On this occasion, I would like to mention names of member organisations of the coalition:

ARTICLE 19
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
The Ethical Journalism Network (EJN)
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Index on Censorship
PEN International
The International Press Institute (IPI)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)

On behalf of the member organisations, I extend our sincerest gratitude and thanks to the Journalists Association of Turkey for their decision to grant this year’s press freedom award to the coalition.

This award is very meaningful for us because it shows that the international solidarity made for the freedom and future of journalism is fairly evaluated and appreciated.

As facts have shown, the international solidarity of journalists has always been effective and a deterrent to repressive regimes that put media under pressure in order to prevent the public from being informed freely and objectively.

International solidarity is becoming more important these days; the repression of journalists and the media is gaining a destructive character with the unlawfulness of the emergency rule, insofar as the failed coup of July 15 has been used as a pretext for its implementation.

In consciousness of this fact, we are very thankful to the honourable jury members for granting us this award.