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News (and news suppression) of Media Freedom Day

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from William Horsley, AEJ Media Freedom Representative

London, May 6, 2021

The latest issue of Safety of Journalists Weekly (Council of Europe publication) lists the latest threats to media freedom reported on the Platform – subscribe. More on the Platform website .

The five-day (April 29 to May 3) UNESCO and Namibia-hosted World Press Freedom Day conference on Information As a Public Good had an impressive range of 40+ events covering urgent issues and the state of media freedom, protections for journalists, and the brave efforts of investigative journalists in all parts of the world, and produced a resonant declaration. The award of the 2021 World Press Freedom prize to the courageous Filipino journalist and Rappler editor Maria Ressa, as reported earlier, was widely welcomed

The 2021 World Press Freedom Day Global Conference adopted the “Windhoek + 30 Declaration”, 30 years after the landmark meeting that produced the 1991 Windhoek Declaration on Free, Independent, and Pluralistic Press and the proclamation of May 3 as World Press Freedom Day. 

But this headline was less welcome: “Turkey bans all Audi-Visual recordings of protests.” A Platform alert  was published on May 4 after the Turkish authorities announced a ban on all audio and video recordings on public demonstrations, provoking a strong backlash by national lawyers’ and journalists’ organisations. AEJ was a co-partner with IPI  in submitting the alert.

Below is the protest statement against the ban issued by AEJ Turkey and three other Turkish journalists associations (Turkish version via the LINK to this Alert and related published information. 

Turkish Police Directive Impedes Audio-visual Reporting on Protests

On April 29,  2021, the Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD) in Turkey published a Directorate General of Security (EGM) directive that the Director General of Security, Mehmet Aktaş, had sent on April 27 to all police departments in the country. The directive instructs police officers to “take necessary action” to stop persons who are taking audio and visual recordings of public demonstrations in case the officers are being prevented from performing their duty.

This has caused a public outcry as journalists and citizens fear that it might prevent the reporting of news and the documenting of police action. Turkish police have been accused on many occasions of using disproportionate force against protestors and journalists covering public demonstrations. Most recently, several journalists on duty were targeted, assaulted, and injured by police during a demonstration in Kadıköy, Istanbul.

Statement on 3 May 2021 by AEJ Turkey Representation and three other Turkish journalists associations

We are going through days when most fundamental rights and freedoms, especially freedom of thought and expression, are progressively being restricted. Our individual and social rights and freedoms are ignored by arbitrary decisions devoid of legal basis; The exercise of these rights is punished by authoritarian methods. Although there are relative situations, authoritarian forms of governance have turned into the dominant tendency throughout the world. The Covid-19 outbreak is also seen as a pretext for legitimizing further shifts in this direction, and for normalizing all kinds of discriminatory policies. On the one hand, there are those who lost their lives on the migration routes, those who were massacred due to their skin colour, those who died among the gears of the economic wheel based on exploitation; On the other hand, half of the world’s wealth is concentrated in only 26 individuals. The profits gained as a result of scientific activity for the world (making vaccines etc.) are confined within the boundaries of private property, while hundreds of thousands of people die and are treated as a source of enrichment. The most important result of these polarizations is the destruction of our fundamental rights and freedoms. Freedom of the press, which is a guarantee of many other freedoms, has been foremost among the freedoms that were most oppressed and attacked in this process. The freedom of the press is sacrificed either for perceived national interests, or the profit motive, except in a few countries in Europe that have succeeded in establishing democratic norms of behaviour. In this context, Turkey is in the category of countries with the worst record concerning press freedom. According to the Press Freedom Index prepared by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey ranked 153rd out of 180 countries last year. The common characteristics of the countries behind Turkey are that they are either experiencing wars and conflicts or they are closed societies. Freedom of the press is a social duty. It must be undertaken by journalists responsibly, and obstructing this duty is a crime under both universal legal principles and national laws and regulations. In this context, the circular issued by the General Directorate of Security three days ago to prevent audio and video recording at events of public interest is undoubtedly illegal. Beyond that, its duties and responsibilities are defined by the law and legal boundaries, and it is a source of illegal practices by the law-enforcement authorities. On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, we call on the public authorities in Turkey to renounce all kinds of practices contrary to the freedom of the press. We urgently call on everyone who believes in the ideal of living under the protection of democratic rule of law to take a common stance against all kinds of pressures against freedom of the press.

AEJ Turkish Representation, Progressive Journalists Association ÇGD, Turkish Journalists Syndicate TGS, The Union of Press and Printing House Workers (DİSK BASIN-İŞ)

LINK: Lahodynsky – no democracy without free media

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