Press Release No. 14/2010

Date: 5 November 2010

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) had called for all journalists currently in jail in Turkey to be set free immediately “if the movement towards key changes in the country’s constitution is to deliver promises of democracy and freedom.

The EFJ had joined its affiliate, the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), in a call for the immediate and unconditional release of more than 40 journalists jailed in Turkey “who they say are in prison for nothing more than doing their job”.

They made the call after a majority of Turkish citizens voted “Yes” to amending the country’s constitution in a referendum earlier this month.

“We demand the immediate release of all journalists whose continued detention has only served to show the country’s intolerance of real democratic debate,” EFJ President Arne König insisted.

“The vote for changes on 12 September would open the possibility of genuine change and modernisation,” König explained. “It is prime time for the Government to show leadership and to end the climate of fear and intimidation which still surrounds the work of Turkish journalists,” the EFJ President added.

An EFJ statement explained how the Turkish journalists currently in prison were awaiting trial on charges of “violating the Turkish penal code or anti-terror laws through their work as journalists”.

In addition, the EFJ lamented, over 700 Turkish journalists were facing lawsuits, with the threat of imprisonment.

“These journalists are guilty only of doing their job honestly and professionally,” König said. “It is unconscionable to be locked up for carrying out their normal journalistic duties.”

The frustration of European journalists was also shared by journalists’ leaders inside the country.

“We urge the Government to release the jailed journalists immediately and reform the country’s legal system to protect journalists’ rights to respect freedom of expression,” Ercan Ipekçi, TGS President and member of the EFJ Steering Committee, said.

“There can be no free society without free journalism,” he warned. “The Government must put press freedom at the core of its constitutional changes,” he insisted.

The TGS had already joined forces with 18 other journalists’ organisations to establish the Freedom for Journalists Platform to monitor issues concerning the freedom of journalists on 25 August, 2010. A council of law would be set up to review judicial cases concerning press freedom in Turkey.

The EFJ called on its member unions and civil society groups to join the campaign to free jailed Turkish journalists.

The Institute of Maltese Journalists (IG.M), the sole affiliate of the EFJ in Malta, has associated itself with the EFJ campaign to free more than 40 journalists held in Turkish prisons solely for exercising their profession.

The IG.M has sent a fax of protest to the Turkish ambassador in Malta in which it highlighted the fact that “the 2009 Progress Report by the European Commission says that ‘Turkish law does not sufficiently guarantee freedom of expression in line with the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and the ECHR case law. Political pressures on the media and legal uncertainties affect the exercise of freedom of the press in practice.’

“To date, thousands of journalists and civil society groups around the world have already joined our call to free the jailed journalists in Turkey (link to EFJ postcard campaign: http://www.ifj.org/assets/docs/242/118/254f1f2-5b9a176.pdf),” IG.M chairman Malcolm J. Naudi lamented in his fax to the Turkish ambassador to Malta.

“The IG.M urges your Government to answer the call of journalists and civil society around the world by ending this climate of fear and intimidation facing Turkish journalist and by immediately reforming the country’s legal system to protect journalists’ rights,” he concluded his fax to the Turkish ambassador to Malta.

“The IG.M Council is calling on all its members, Maltese journalists and all those concerned about the state of media freedoms in Turkey to send an electronic card to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This can be accessed on the link http://www.ifj.org/en/pages/set-turkish-journalists-free.

The EFJ was also scheduled to demonstrate outside the Turkish Embassy in Brussels, Belgium, on the Stand Up for Journalism Day today, 5 November, 2010.

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