2022-PF-Mission-Turkey Library

Turkey: International delegation condemns passage of disinformation law and…

Turkey: International delegation condemns passage of disinformation law and issues call to protect safety and freedom of journalists ahead of 2023 elections

Turkey’s journalists are bracing themselves for a renewed attack on their safety and freedoms in the run up to the country’s 2023 general elections following passage of a new disinformation law that threatens to close down public criticism and debate, an international media freedom mission visiting Turkey from October 12 to 14, 2022, has found.

Article 29 of the law provides for three years’ imprisonment for those who publish “false information” with the “intention to instigate fear or panic, endanger the country’s security, public order and general health of society”. It was passed by parliament on Thursday, October 13.

 

The bill’s vague and problematic language and its future implementation by Turkey’s politicized judicial system will put journalists as well as millions of internet users at risk of criminal sanctions and could lead to much greater censorship and self-censorship in the country’s already compromised news landscape.

 

This week, seven media freedom, journalism, and human rights organisations met with a range of key stakeholders in Turkey, including journalists, civil society groups, political parties, and the Turkish Constitutional Court to discuss Turkey’s media freedom crisis. In addition to the chair of the Turkish Parliament’s Investigative Committee on Human Rights, MP Hakan Çavuşuğlu of the ruling AKP party, the delegation also met with representatives of the Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP), Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Good Party (İYİP), Future Party (Gelecek P.), Demokrat Party, Felicity Party (Saadet Party), Turkey’s Workers Party (TİP), Labor Party (EMEP), and Societal Freedom Party (TÖP).

 

The mission’s requests for meetings with presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın; with the AKP vice-chair responsible for human rights, Leyla Şahin Usta; and with RTÜK (national broadcast regulator) Chair Ebubekir Şahin were declined. Meeting requests sent to MHP representatives; BTK (communications authority) administration; the chair of the parliamentary Digital Platforms Committee, MP Hüseyin Yayman of AKP; and the head of Directorate of Communications, Fahrettin Altun, were left unanswered.

 

Led by the International Press Institute (IPI) and IPI’s Turkey National Committee, the mission included representatives from Amnesty International Turkey, ARTICLE 19, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT), and Reporters without Borders (RSF). The mission was also supported by PEN International and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO).

 

Presidential and parliamentary elections are due to take place in Turkey June 2023. The free flow of independent news and information is an essential condition to any democratic election.

 

The mission called on politicians across the political spectrum to pledge to end the crisis facing journalism and commit to extensive reforms in their manifestos guaranteeing media freedoms after many years of deteriorating conditions.

 

At the same time, stakeholders met by the mission expressed grave concern over the possibility of a greater crackdown on journalists and a heightened threat of physical violence ahead of the vote. We call on the government to guarantee that journalists are able to do their work free of intimidation and harassment in particular during the election period.

 

Priorities for action

Following its meetings, the international delegation has identified the following priorities for action:

 

Disinformation law and digital censorship: The government must repeal the disinformation law and put an end to the framework of digital censorship that has been built by the administration. In particular, the new penal code article criminalizing disinformation offers the authorities yet another tool after years of abusing Turkey’s anti-terror law to target critical journalism.

 

Stakeholders met by the mission also raised fears that the Center to Combat Disinformation, established this summer by the Directorate of Communications, will add another layer to the system of digital repression by increasing monitoring and harassment of journalists online.

 

Sustainable improvement for press freedom in Turkey cannot happen without ensuring the impartiality and independence of the judiciary. Turkey’s captured prosecution services and courts, combined with poorly drafted laws that are not in compliance with international standards, have led to the prosecution, conviction, and jailing of hundreds of journalists over the past decade for their journalism. Despite the reduced number of journalists in jail, the Judicial Reform Package, a 2019 initiative presented by the government as an effort to safeguard rights, has not succeeded in stopping the prosecution and legal harassment of journalists.

 

While the Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC) has issued some important pilot rulings pointing to structural problems with laws impacting free expression, there are still major challenges around implementation of the TCC’s rulings by both lower courts – a problem the TCC says it is working to address – and by lawmakers. Important freedom of expression related cases have faced years-long delays awaiting decisions from the TCC, underscoring serious concerns that justice delayed is tantamount to justice denied.

 

At the same time, meeting partners in Turkey have highlighted the problem that most TCC judges are nominated directly or indirectly by the president. Recent appointments to the court have given rise to serious concerns regarding political influence and underscore the need to free the nominations process from such influence.

 

Turkey’s media regulatory bodies must be depoliticised and reformed. They have all abused their powers to target and penalise independent media.

  • The Press Advertising Agency (BIK) has consistently imposed arbitrary penalties on independent newspapers by withdrawing state advertising, thereby denying them an important source of revenue. This August, the Constitutional Court ruled that BIK’s arbitrary sanctions constitute a rights violation stemming from a structural problem. Despite the ruling, BIK subsequently permanently revoked the right of one of these newspapers, Evrensel, to receive public ads.
  • The Television and Radio High Council (RTÜK), Turkey’s broadcast regulator, has regularly targeted independent media. RTÜK issued 42 fines in the past nine months, according to reports by MP Utku Çakırözer. These have almost exclusively been levelled against independent broadcasters.
  • This summer, the Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK) was embroiled in a scandal known as “BTK Gate” following the revelation that it had been harvesting data of millions of internet users without a court order. Since December 2020, internet service providers have been required to send BTK hourly reports on websites visited, data location, apps used, and the names of the users. Such mass surveillance has clear implications for the rights of journalists and sources.

The safety of journalists is under increasing pressure as online threats and the verbal targeting of journalists by politicians spill out into violence on the streets. The Mapping Media Freedom platform has recorded 26 cases of assaults against journalists in Turkey in the past year alone. This rise in violence does not take place in a vacuum but is a result of the demonization of critical journalism as illegitimate and a threat to national security. Moreover, the impunity that has emerged in some of these cases risks fuelling further violence.

 

During the mission, the delegation called on all political parties to condemn any attacks on journalists and guarantee the rights of journalists to freely and safely cover the 2023 election campaign.

 

Over the past year, the prosecution and detentions of critical, independent media have continued. This year’s mission has visited Diyarbakir to show solidarity with 15 journalists and a media worker who have been held there in pretrial detention since June despite a lack of official charges. The mission renews its call for the release of all jailed journalists in Turkey and its support for their colleagues and families.

 

Finally, the process of press accreditation must be reformed and depoliticized so as to enable all journalists to do their work. Accreditation must be taken out of the hands of the Directorate of Communications, which has abused its position to remove the press cards of hundreds of critical journalists, and be replaced by a system run by journalists and media organizations themselves.

 

Later this year, the delegation will publish a full report on the mission in which it will provide more detail about the views expressed by stakeholders and officials met during the visit.

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Turkey disinformation bill Library

International Press Freedom Groups Condemn Turkey Disinformation Bill Placed…

International Press Freedom Groups Condemn Turkey Disinformation Bill Placed before Parliament

Twenty five international media freedom, freedom of expression and journalists’ organisations call on Members of Parliament (MPs) to vote against the bill on “disinformation and fake news,” which was submitted to parliament’s General Assembly on October 4 by the governing alliance of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

 

Açıklamanın Türkçesi aşağıdadır. / Turkish translation available below.

The bill, which was first submitted to parliament in June before being postponed after the commission stages due to alleged differences between the two governing parties, has been resubmitted this week without any amendments despite  fierce criticism from across civil society and the journalistic community.

 

The bill provides a framework for extensive censorship of online information and the criminalisation of journalism, which will enable the government to further subdue and control public debate in the leadup to Turkey’s general elections in 2023. 

 

The proposed bill provides for:

  • Up to three years imprisonment for those found guilty of deliberately publishing  “disinformation and fake news” intended to instigate fear or panic, endanger the country’s internal or external security, public order and general health of Turkey’s society.
  • An increase of any sentence by 50 percent where the information has been published from anonymous accounts, by someone concealing their identity, or as part of an organisation’s activities.
  • The expansion of the press law to include online news sites. This will enable the government to use the expanded role of the Press Advertising Agency, Basin Ilan Kurumu (BIK), to fund online propaganda while excluding critical outlets as has been applied in the print media.

 

The bill, with its vaguely formulated definition of disinformation and ‘intent’, overseen by Turkey’s highly politicised judiciary, will put millions of internet users at risk of criminal sanction and could lead to blanket censorship and self-censorship in the run up to the 2023 elections.

 

A consortium of media freedom and human rights organisations will be visiting Turkey 12 to 14 October to discuss the consequences of the disinformation bill with politicians and media stakeholders, as well as the challenges facing independent journalists in reporting public affairs in accordance with the principles of free and fair elections.  

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19
  • Articolo 21
  • Association of European Journalists
  • Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • Danish PEN
  • English PEN
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Foreign Media Association (of Turkey) FMA
  • Freedom House
  • IFEX
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • Media Research Association (MEDAR)
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • P24 Platform for Independent Journalism
  • PEN America
  • PEN International
  • PEN Norway
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Swedish PEN
  • The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)

Uluslararası Basın Özgürlüğü Grupları Türkiye’de Meclise Sunulan Dezenformasyon Yasa Tasarısını Kınadı

Serbest bilgi akışını suç haline getirmek için tasarlanmış bir yasa 

 

Yirmi beş uluslararası medya özgürlüğü, ifade özgürlüğü ve gazeteci örgütü, milletvekillerine Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (AKP) ve Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi (MHP) iktidar ittifakı tarafından 4 Ekim’de TBMM Genel Kurulu’na sunulan “dezenformasyon ve yalan haber” yasa tasarısına karşı oy kullanmaları çağrısında bulundu.

 

İlk olarak Haziran ayında meclise sunulan ancak iki iktidar partisi arasındaki görüş ayrılıkları nedeniyle komisyon aşamasından sonra ertelenen tasarı, sivil toplum ve gazetecilik camiasından gelen sert eleştirilere rağmen bu hafta hiçbir değişiklik yapılmadan yeniden meclis genel kuruluna sunuldu.

 

Tasarı, Türkiye’de 2023 yılında yapılacak genel seçimler öncesinde hükümetin kamusal tartışmayı daha da bastırmasına ve kontrol etmesine olanak sağlayacak şekilde, çevrimiçi bilginin kapsamlı bir şekilde sansürlenmesi ve habercilik faaliyetlerinin kriminalize edilmesi için bir çerçeve sunuyor. 

 

Tasarı şunları öngörmektedir

  • Korku veya panik yaratmak, ülkenin iç veya dış güvenliğini, kamu düzenini ve toplumun genel sağlığını tehlikeye atmak amacıyla kasıtlı olarak “dezenformasyon ve yalan haber” yayınlamaktan suçlu bulunan kişiler için üç yıla kadar hapis cezası.
  • Bilginin anonim hesaplardan, kimliğini gizleyen bir kişi tarafından ya da bir örgütün faaliyetlerinin bir parçası olarak yayınlanması durumunda cezanın yüzde 50 oranında artırılması.
  • Basın kanununun internet haber sitelerini de kapsayacak şekilde genişletilmesi. Bu sayede hükümet, Basın İlan Kurumu’nun (BİK) genişletilmiş rolünü kullanarak, yazılı basında olduğu gibi eleştirel yayın organlarını dışlarken, internet üzerinden propagandayı finanse edebilecek.

 

Muğlak bir ifade ile oluşturulmuş olan dezenformasyon ve ‘kasıt’ tanımlarıyla, Türkiye’nin son derece siyasallaşmış yargısı tarafından denetlenen tasarı, milyonlarca internet kullanıcısını da cezai yaptırım riskiyle karşı karşıya bırakacak ve 2023 seçimleri öncesinde kapsamlı bir sansüre ve otosansüre yol açabilecektir. 

 

Medya özgürlüğü ve insan hakları örgütlerinden oluşan bir konsorsiyum, dezenformasyon yasa tasarısının sonuçlarını siyasetçiler ve medya paydaşlarıyla tartışmak ve bağımsız gazetecilerin özgür ve adil seçim ilkelerine uygun olarak kamu meselelerini haberleştirmede karşılaştıkları zorlukları ele almak üzere 12-14 Ekim tarihleri arasında Türkiye’yi ziyaret edecek.  

 

İmzalayanlar:

  • Amerika PEN
  • Article 19
  • Articolo 21
  • Avrupa Basın ve Medya Özgürlüğü Merkezi (ECPMF)
  • Avrupa Gazeteciler Derneği (AEJ)
  • Avrupa Gazeteciler Federasyonu (EFJ)
  • Bağımsız Gazetecilik Platformu P24
  • Danimarka PEN
  • Gazetecileri Koruma Komitesi (CPJ)
  • Gazetecilikte Kadınlar Koalisyonu (CFWIJ)
  • Güneydoğu Avrupa Medya Kurumu (SEEMO)
  • İngiltere PEN
  • İsveç PEN
  • Medya Araştırmaları Derneği (MEDAR)
  • Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA)
  • Norveç PEN
  • Özgürlük Evi (FH)
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Sınır Tanımayan Gazeteciler (RSF)
  • Uluslararası Gazeteciler Federasyonu (IFJ)
  • Uluslararası Karikatürist Hakları Ağı (CRNI)
  • Uluslararası PEN
  • Uluslararası İfade Hürriyeti (IFEX)
  • Yabancı Medya Derneği (FMA)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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Turkish journalist blacklist Library

Turkey: Solidarity with twenty journalists including TGS leadership blacklisted…

Turkey: Solidarity with twenty journalists including TGS leadership blacklisted by police

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) expressed solidarity with the twenty journalists blacklisted by the Turkish General Directorate of Security (EGM) for their writing and joined Turkey’s Journalists Union (TGS) in denouncing an apparent attempt to intimidate independent journalists and trade unionists.

On 5 September, the Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) revealed that the General Directorate of Security (EGM) had blacklisted 20 journalists in relation to their writings for the online magazine Journalist Post, a periodical run by journalists living in exile. No legal proceedings have yet been initiated against them.

 

The confidential document, containing the blacklist, was disclosed during the trial of MA editor-in-chief Dicle Müftüoğlu, on trial under terrorism charges. According to media reports, the list was prepared based on intelligence information collected against the Fethullah Gülen movement for anti-terrorism police departments. Based on this intelligence information, the EGM Foreign Relations Department of the Turkish Police classified Journalist Post as being run by a Fethullah Gülen-linked network.

 

Since 2020, four magazine issues have been published as part of a solidarity campaign for freedom of expression and press freedom worldwide. It featured 74 articles, interviews, news and analysis written by journalists and academics from 32 different countries, available in Turkish, English and German.

 

The list includes the name of the journalists who have been involved in running the magazine or contributing to it, their ID numbers, their positions, and whether they have an entry with their ID numbers on the National Judiciary Network (UYAP).

 

The listed journalists are: Engin Sağ, Şemsi Açıkgöz, Mustafa Kılıç, Yüksek Durgut, Ramiz Kılıçarslan, Necdet Çelik, Hasan Cücük,  İsmail Muhammet Sağıroğlu, Enes Cansever,  Basri Doğan, Türkmen Terzi, Vedat Demir, Rabia Yavuz Türe, Yunus Erdoğdu, Naciye Nur Kılıç, Erkan Pehlivan, Erkin Emet, Dicle Müftüoğlu, Dicle Fırat (Journalists Association DFG Co-chairperson), Mustafa Kuleli (General Secretary of Journalists Union of Turkey and EFJ Vice-President) and Gökhan Durmuş (President of Journalists Union of Turkey).

 

Listed among the 20 journalists, EFJ Vice-President Mustafa Kuleli reacted: “Erdogan’s regime is trying to criminalise journalism and advocacy by juxtaposing them with terrorism. They are trying to intimidate us. We will continue to defend journalists, journalism and democracy.  As I wrote in my article that got me blacklisted: Turkey is bigger than Erdogan. The people of Turkey will eventually defeat tyranny and despotism.”

 

Our organisations urge the Turkish authorities to end the repression of media freedom advocates and to not start legal proceedings against the listed journalists. Thirty-eight journalists and media workers are still behind bars in Turkish prisons for doing their job in the public interest.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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Library

Turkey: International groups call to restore Evrensel’s right to…

Turkey: International groups call to restore Evrensel’s right to receive public ads

18 press freedom, freedom of expression and human rights organisations call on the Turkish Press Advertising Agency (BİK) to withdraw without delay its alarming decision to revoke the right of the independent Evrensel newspaper to receive public ads, a vital source of financial income for the publication. BİK has a regulatory duty to act as an independent and fair distributor of public ads, and not to facilitate censorship through suppressing critical news outlets.

 

Turkish translation available here.

On 22 August 2022, Evrensel newspaper received BİK’s decision backdated to July 17, 2022, revoking its right to receive public ads. This move was prompted by an audit into alleged bulk buying that distorted Evrensel’s distribution figures against which measure the advertising levels are set. The right of Evrensel to receive public advertisements has been suspended since September 2019. With the latest decision, this suspended right was completely cancelled.

 

In its decision, the BİK stated that “the public ad ban on Evrensel was observed to be suspended for a full six months without break, excluding the period when such administrative monitoring was suspended due to the pandemic, therefore its right to receive public ads was revoked”. Evrensel has the right to appeal to the decision at court. Should Evrensel be removed from BİK’s system to receive any public advertising, a new, swiftly launched application process for re-gaining the right to public ads would take at least three years. This drawn-out process would be detrimental to the newspaper’s financial stability.

 

In the last three years, IPI and undersigned press freedom organisations have repeatedly called on BİK to withdraw the initial public ad ban that was initiated in September 2019 on Evrensel. Ten members of the European Parliament had also joined the call with a letter to then-General Director of BİK Rıdvan Duran requesting the ban be lifted. Despite an in person meeting with Duran in February 2020, the ad ban remained in force until this latest decision.

 

MFRR Coordinator, Gürkan Özturan, said:

 

“The long time pressure and regulatory restrictions imposed on independent media has been impacting media freedom and society’s right to access information negatively in Turkey. The latest BİK decision to revoke advertisement revenues for Evrensel is yet another example of this ongoing and increasing trend and must be revoked immediately.”

 

In a judgment issued on 10 August 2022, the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that BİK’s arbitrary and consecutive public ad bans on newspapers including Sözcü, Cumhuriyet, Evrensel and BirGün, violated freedom of expression and press freedom as well as constituted and evidence of BİK acting as a tool for systematic censorship and criminalization of news coverage in the country. The Constitutional Court’s verdict thus confirmed that BİK lacks impartiality towards media outlets.

 

Media freedom in recent years has been deteriorating in Turkey in light of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in 2023, we are concerned about the state of remaining independent media outlets, the repercussions it will have on the right to access information for the residents of Turkey who will need to rely on the existing media outlets to make informed decisions in the election calendar, and how this will contribute to an already-shrinking civic space in the country. Hereby we once again call upon the Press Advertising Agency (BİK) in Turkey to withdraw the decision to revoke ad revenues for Evrensel.

Signed by:

  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Articolo 21
  • Danish PEN
  • English PEN
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • IFEX
  • IPS Communication Foundation/bianet
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • P24 (Platform for Independent Journalism)
  • PEN America
  • PEN Norway
  • PEN Turkey
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Swedish PEN
  • The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)

Uluslararası hak grupları, Evrensel’in kamu ilanı yayımlama hakkının geri verilmesi için çağrı yaptı 

Basın İlan Kurumu, Evrensel gazetesinin kamu ilanı alma hakkını iptal etti

 

Uluslararası Basın Enstitüsü (IPI) ve 17 uluslararası basın ve ifade özgürlüğü ve insan hakları grubu, Basın İlan Kurumu’na (BİK) bağımsız Evrensel gazetesinin kamu ilanı alma hakkına yönelik iptal kararını derhal geri çekme çağrısı yaptı. BİK, gazetelerin yayın hayatı için hayati önem taşıyan kamu ilanlarının bağımsız ve adil bir biçimde dağıtılmasında düzenleyici bir rol oynamalıdır, eleştirel haber kurumlarını baskılayarak sansür mekanizmasını yaygınlaştırmada değil.

 

Evrensel gazetesine 22 Ağustos 2022’de tebliğ edilen 17 Temmuz tarihli BİK kararında gazetenin kamu ilanı alma hakkının tümüyle iptal edildiği bildirildi. Bu karar, Evrensel gazetesinin tirajını “çoklu alım” ile arttırdığı iddialarını takiben başlatılan denetimlerin gerçekleştirilmesinin ardından geldi. Evrensel için gazetelerin tirajlarına göre belirlenen kamu ilanı gelirleri Eylül 2019’da denetim kararına kadar BİK tarafından durdurulmuştu. Bu son karar ile Evrensel gazetesi, kamu ilanı yayımlama hakkını tümüyle kaldırdı.

 

BİK kararında, “23 Mart 2020 ile 30 Nisan 2022 tarihleri arasında Kurumca mevzuat şartlarının aranmadığı salgın süreci hariç bırakılmak suretiyle altı ay içinde yayınlama hakkı yeniden devam etmediği anlaşıldığından, Günlük Evrensel gazetesinin, resmi ilan ve reklam yayınlama hakkının sona ermesine karar verilmiştir,” ifadelerini kullandı. Evrensel’in kararı önce BİK’e itiraz etmek olmak üzere mahkemede temyiz hakkı bulunuyor. Evrensel gazetesinin BİK sisteminden çıkarılması halinde, ilan yayımlama hakkının geri kazanımı için bugün başlatılacak bir başvuru sürecinin dahi en az üç yıl süreceği öngörülüyor. Bu süreç, gazetenin finansal sürdürülebilirliği açısından son derece yıkıcı etkiler doğuracaktır.

 

Son üç yıl içinde, IPI ve aşağıda imzası bulunan basın özgürlüğü kurumları, Eylül 2019’da verilen Evrensel’e yönelik ilan durdurma cezasının kaldırılması için BİK’e pek çok kez çağrıda bulundu. 10 Avrupa Parlamentosu üyesi, dönemin BİK Başkanı Rıdvan Duran’a ortak mektup göndererek bu çağrıya destek vermişti. Şubat 2020’de Duran ile IPI öncülüğünde yüz yüze düzenlenen bir toplantıda bu talep ve endişeler dile getirilmiş olmasına rağmen, ilan durdurma cezası kaldırılmamıştı.

 

Sözcü, Cumhuriyet, Evrensel ve BirGün gazetelerinin toplu başvurusuna yönelik Anayasa Mahkemesi’nin 10 Ağustos 2022 tarihli kararında, bu gazetelere verilen arka arkaya ve keyfi ilan kesme cezalarının basın ve ifade özgürlüklerini ihlal ettiğini belirtti. Ayrıca bu durumun yapısal sorunlardan kaynaklandığını belirten karar ile BİK’in ülkedeki sistematik sansür mekanizmasının bir aracı olarak hareket ettiği adeta teyit etmiş oldu. Böylelikle, AYM kararı BİK’in medya kurumlarına yönelik bağımsız yaklaşımının kaybedildiğini tasdik etti.

 

Son yıllarda Türkiye’deki medya özgürlüğü alanı gün geçtikçe daralıyordu. 2023 genel ve başkanlık seçimleri takvimi devam ederken, bağımsız haber yapmaya çalışan medya kuruluşlarının durumu, bilgiye dayalı karar verebilmek için var olan basın kuruluşlarına bağımlı kalan Türkiye vatandaşlarının habere erişimi üzerindeki olumsuz etkileri ve tüm bunların halihazırda daralmakta olan sivil alana olumsuz katkısı hakkında büyük endişe içerisindeyiz. O nedenle, bir kez daha Basın İlan Kurumu’na Evrensel gazetesinin ilan yayımlama hakkının iptalinin geri çekilmesi için çağrı yapıyoruz.

İmzacı kurumlar:

  • Uluslararası Basın Enstitüsü (IPI)
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Articolo 21
  • Avrupa Basın ve Medya Özgürlüğü Merkezi (ECPMF)
  • Danish PEN
  • English PEN
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • IFEX
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • IPS Communication Foundation/bianet
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • P24 (Platform for Independent Journalism)
  • PEN America
  • PEN Norway
  • PEN Turkey
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Swedish PEN
  • The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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A protester chaining hands during freedom of the press in Istanbul, Turkey, 4 March 2016 Library

International groups call on Turkey’s parliament to reject the…

International groups call on Turkey’s parliament to reject the “disinformation” bill as a tool of digital censorship

Twenty three international media freedom, freedom of expression and journalists’ organisations today called for the immediate dismissal of the bill on “disinformation and fake news” which was submitted to the parliament on May 27 by the governing alliance of Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

 

[Açıklamanın Türkçe çevirisi aşağıdadır]

The bill threatens up to three years imprisonment for those found guilty of the deliberate publishing of “disinformation and fake news” intended to instigate fear or panic, endanger the country’s internal or external security, public order and general health of Turkey’s society.

Such a bill, where the definition of disinformation and ‘intent’ is left so vague, puts millions of Turkey’s internet users at risk of criminal action for posting information that the government disagrees with.

Placed in the hands of Turkey’s highly politicized judiciary, the law would become another tool for harassing journalists and activists and may cause blanket self-censorship across the internet.

The bill would also increase any sentence by 50% where information is published from anonymous user accounts. This severely undermines anonymity on the internet and further intimidates those wanting to publish evidence of corruption and wrongdoing but are afraid of the consequences of being publicly identified. 

The governing alliance claim the bill is in line with the European Union’s Digital Services Act and General Data Protection Regulation, however there are no such provisions under either of these laws. 

The law would also bring news sites under the Press Law (Basin Kanunu). This gives their journalists access to the official press accreditation and also to public advertising funds through the official Press Advertising Agency, Basin Ilan Kurumu (BIK). In practice however this will simply enable the government to fund pro-government news sites while banning critical media deemed to have breached the disinformation law.

In the drafting stage, the government reportedly organized a consultation with international digital platforms yet it failed to hold any meetings with media representatives, editors, journalism associations or unions, despite these groups, and their members, being the most affected by the legislation.

The draft bill is currently before the Parliament. However the role of parliament has been so heavily undermined by the Presidential system that the bill is being rushed through without proper scrutiny or debate and expected to be passed swiftly into law within days. 

Disinformation is an important issue and needs to be combatted but not at the price of restricting journalists’ rights and the public’s rights of freedom of expression. Any such initiatives should be developed in close consultation with media and other stakeholders and include sufficient safeguards for free speech and independent journalism that can prevent their abuse by the government to impose  arbitrary censorship.  

We, therefore, call on all Turkey’s parliamentarians who believe in the parliamentary process and the free flow of ideas and information as central to a democratic society, to vote down this bill.

Uluslararası kurumlar, Türkiye meclisini dijital sansürün bir aracı olarak görülen “dezenformasyon” yasa tasarısına karşı çıkmaya çağırıyor.

Yirmi üç uluslararası basın özgürlüğü, ifade hürriyeti ve gazetecilik örgütü, Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi’nin (AKP) ve iktidar müttefiki Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi (MHP) tarafından 27 Mayıs’ta meclise sunduğu “dezenformasyon ve yalan haber” konulu yasa tasarısının bugün yayınladıkları bir ortak açıklamayla derhal geri çekilmesi çağrısında bulundu.

Tasarıda, korku ve panik yaratmaya, ülkenin iç ve dış güvenliğini, kamu düzenini ve Türkiye toplumunun genel sağlığını tehlikeye atmayı amaçlayan “dezenformasyon ve yalan haber” kasıtlı olarak yayımlamaktan suçlu bulunanlar üç yıla kadar hapisle tehdit ediliyor.
Dezenformasyon ve ‘niyet’ tanımının bu kadar muğlak bırakıldığı böyle bir yasa tasarısı, Türkiye’de milyonlarca internet kullanıcısını iktidarın onaylamadığı bilgileri paylaştığı için cezai işlem riskiyle karşı karşıya bırakıyor.

Türkiye’nin son derece politize olmuş yargısının ellerine bırakılan yasa, gazetecileri ve aktivistleri taciz etmenin başka bir aracı haline gelebilir ve internette kapsamlı bir otosansüre neden olabilir.

Tasarı ayrıca, bilgilerin anonim kullanıcı hesaplarından yayınlandığı durumlarda herhangi bir hapis cezasını yüzde 50 oranında artıracaktır. Bu, internetteki anonimliği ciddi şekilde baltalar ve yolsuzluk ve görevi kötüye kullanmanın kanıtlarını yayınlamak isteyebilecek ancak kamuoyuna açıklanmanın sonuçlarına dair çekinceleri olan kişileri daha da korkutur.

İktidarda bulunan AKP ve MHP ittifakı, tasarının Avrupa Birliği’nin Dijital Hizmetler Yasası ve Genel Veri Koruma Yönetmeliği ile uyumlu olduğunu iddia ediyor, ancak bu yasaların kapsamında böyle bir hüküm bulunmuyor.

Kanun tasarısı, haber sitelerini de Basın Kanunu kapsamına almayı öngörüyor. Bu, internet ortamında faaliyet gösteren mecralara bağlı gazetecilere resmi basın kartı tahsisi sağlayacak ve ayrıca kurumlara da Basın İlan Kurumu (BİK) aracılığıyla kamu reklam fonlarına erişimi mümkün kılacak. Ancak uygulamada bu, iktidarın hükümet yanlısı haber sitelerini finanse etmesine ve dezenformasyon yasasını ihlal ettiği düşünülen eleştirel medyayı kısıtlamasına olanak tanıyacaktır.

Taslak aşamasında hükümetin uluslararası dijital platformlarla bir istişare düzenlediği, ancak mevzuattan en çok etkilenmesi beklenen bu gruplara ve temsilcilerine, medya temsilcileri, editörler, gazetecilik dernekleri veya sendikalar ile herhangi bir görüşme yapmadığı bildirildi.
Tasarı şu anda Meclis aşamasında. Ancak, Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi’nin rolü, Başkanlık sistemi tarafından o kadar ağır bir şekilde sarsıldı ki, yasa tasarısı uygun bir inceleme veya tartışma yapılmadan aceleye getirilmekte ve birkaç gün içinde hızla yasalaşması bekleniyor.

Dezenformasyon önemli bir konu ve mücadele edilmesi gerekiyor, ancak gazetecilerin haklarını ve kamuoyunun ifade hürriyetini kısıtlamak pahasına böylesi bir adım atılamaz. Bu tür girişimler, medya ve diğer paydaşlarla yakın istişare içinde geliştirilmeli ve hükûmet tarafından keyfi bir biçimde sansür uygulamak için bunların kötüye kullanılmasını önleyebilecek ifade hürriyeti ve bağımsız habercilik için yeterli güvenceleri içermelidir.

Bu nedenle, meclis aşamasında, demokratik bir toplumun temeli olarak ifade hürriyeti ve bilginin serbestçe dolaşabilmesine inanan Türkiye’deki tüm milletvekillerini bu tasarıyı reddetmeye çağırıyoruz.

Signed by:

  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • ARTICLE 19
  • Articolo 21 
  • Association of European Journalists
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Danish PEN
  • English PEN
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Foreign Media Association (FMA)
  • IFEX
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • Media Research Association (MEDAR)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • PEN America
  • PEN International
  • PEN Norway
  • Platform for Independent Journalism (P24)
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Swedish Pen
  • The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
  • Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project
  • World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)

This statement was coordinated by ECPMF and IPI as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries and Ukraine.

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Güngör Arslan, murdered journalist in Turkey Library

Turkey: MFRR calls for swift and thorough investigation into…

Turkey: MFRR calls for swift and thorough investigation into murder of Güngör Arslan

The partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) strongly condemn the murder of Güngör Arslan, the owner and managing editor of the local Ses Kocaeli newspaper in Turkey.

On Saturday 19 February, Arslan was attacked in front of his office and shot in the chest and leg. He was taken to hospital, where he died of his injuries. In a written statement, the Governor’s office announced that a 21-year-old suspect had been taken into custody. According to news reports, the suspect claimed he killed Arslan because he did not like his writing.

The MFRR welcomes the speedy arrest by the police and calls for a swift and thorough investigation and prosecution of the gunman and those who may have assisted or ordered the murder. This must shed light on the reasons for the attack, including any possible links with his journalistic work, and ensure all those responsible are held to account in court. In a broadcast made before the attack, Arslan had stated that he had previously suffered attacks for “trying to do his job as a journalist”.

Endemic impunity for murder of journalists in Turkey

In this regard, we reiterate our longstanding concerns about the endemic impunity for murders of journalists in Turkey: there has been no or incomplete justice for Uğur Mumcu, assassinated outside his home in Ankara in 1993; Metin Göktepe, tortured and murdered in police custody in Istanbul in 1996; Hrant Dink, assassinated in Istanbul in 2007; Naji Jerf, gunned down in Gaziantep in 2015; Rohat Aktaş, found dead in Cizre in 2016; or Jamal Khashoggi, murdered in a Saudi consulate in 2018.

In his last article published before his death, Arslan criticised Mayor Tahir Büyükakın of the Kocaeli Metropolitan area in relation to the allocation of a housing construction tender to the company of a close friend of Büyükakın. In 2021, Arslan spent 188 days in pre-trial detention on allegations of blackmail. He was released at his first hearing at the Kocaeli 12th Criminal Court of First Instance. After the attempted coup of 2016, he was detained as a FETÖ suspect. He was acquitted at trial, but his newspaper and property were seized.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.

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Turkey: 27 international media freedom and free expression groups…

Turkey: 27 international media freedom and free expression groups call for release of journalist Sedef Kabaş

27 undersigned human rights and journalists’ organizations including the MFRR consortium members, call for the immediate release of journalist Sedef Kabaş following her late-night arrest on January 22 and for an end to the judicial harassment of independent media.

On January 22, Kabaş was detained during a midnight police raid in Istanbul following critical comments she made about Turkish President Erdoğan on a program aired on January 14 on TV broadcaster TELE1. In the programme, Kabaş quoted a Circassian proverb on air as follows: “An ox does not become a king as it ascends to a palace, but the palace becomes a barn.” Kabaş added, “There is a very famous proverb that says that a crowned head becomes wiser. But we see it is not true.” This remark was interpreted as an insult directed at Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and prosecutors opened an investigation shortly after Kabaş made the remarks. Article 299 of the Turkish Criminal Code makes it a crime to insult the president, and those found guilty of doing so face a prison sentence of between one and four years.

Following the programme, a number of governmental officials condemned Kabaş’s remarks on social media. Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said while Kabaş was being held for questioning that her words went “beyond the limit”, “stem from hatred”, and “shall find a response in front of justice”. Following Gül’s statement, Kabaş was arrested on a charge of “insulting the president”.

On January 26, Kabaş’s lawyer announced that their appeal against her arrest had been rejected by the criminal court. Kabaş’s lawyer also claimed that Minister Gül’s intervention had influenced the judiciary and thereby violated both the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) with regards to Article 6 on the right to a fair trial.

Last October, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the offence of insulting the president under Turkish criminal law is incompatible with freedom of expression. The court also found no justification for the imposition of police custody or a criminal sanction in the case before the court, which involved an individual who posted critical content about Erdoğan on Facebook.

Prior to Kabaş’s arrest, Ebubekir Şahin, president of Turkey’s Radio and Television High Council (RTÜK), announced that RTÜK had initiated a probe into TELE1 regarding Kabaş’s remarks. On January 24, RTÜK issued a 5 percent revenue fine and a five-day programme broadcast ban against TELE1. After TELE1 journalist Uğur Dündar criticized RTÜK over the decision, the body issued another 3 percent revenue fine against the channel.

In addition, Alican Uludağ, a judicial reporter and Ankara chairperson of the Journalists Union of Turkey, received death threats on Twitter following his reports noting that the judge who ordered the arrest of Kabaş was the same judge who ordered the re-arrest of Osman Kavala in 2020.

Therefore we, the undersigned organizations, request:

  • The immediate release of Sedef Kabaş and of all other detained or arrested journalists
  • A full investigation into the death threats against Alican Uludağ, whose safety and protection must be guaranteed by the authorities
  • The withdrawal of RTÜK’s broadcast fines and bans against TELE1 and an end to the discriminatory issuing of punitive measures against independent broadcasters by RTÜK

Signed by:

  • Articolo 21
  • Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
  • Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • Danish PEN
  • English PEN
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Freedom House
  • German PEN
  • Index on Censorship
  • International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • PEN America
  • PEN Centre of Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • PEN International
  • PEN Iraq
  • PEN Melbourne
  • PEN Norway
  • PEN Québec
  • PEN Turkey
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • San Miguel PEN
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  • Swedish PEN
  • WAN-IFRA

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.

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Turkey: IPI calls for release of Turkey journalist Sedef…

Turkey: MFRR partner IPI calls for release of journalist Sedef Kabaş

Kabaş arrested and charged with insulting the president after comments on television programme. The IPI global network and IPI’s Turkey National Committee call for the immediate release of Turkish journalist and author Sedef Kabaş, who was arrested over the weekend on charges of “insulting the president”.

On January 22, Kabaş was detained during a midnight police raid following critical comments she made about Turkish President Erdoğan on a program aired last week on TV broadcaster TELE1. The police raided Kabaş’s home at 2 am and took the journalist into custody for questioning.

Prosecutors had opened an investigation shortly after Kabaş made the remarks. In the programme, Kabaş quoted a Circassian proverb on air as follows: “A cow does not become a king as it ascends to a palace, but the palace becomes a barn.” Kabaş added, “There is a very famous proverb that says that a crowned head becomes wiser. But we see it is not true.”

Following the programme, a number of governmental officials, including Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül, reacted on their social media accounts condemning Kabaş’s remarks. Following Minister Gül’s statement saying that these words go “beyond the limit”, “stem from hatred”, and “shall find a response in front of justice”, Kabaş was arrested on a charge of “insulting the president”.

With Kabaş’s arrest, the number of journalists in prison in Turkey rose to 38, according to IPI figures.

Prior to Kabaş’s arrest, Ebubekir Şahin, president of Turkey’s Radio and Television High Council (RTÜK), said that the RTÜK had also initiated a probe into TELE1 regarding Kabaş’s remarks. During the Council meeting held on January 24, RTÜK issued a 5 percent revenue fine against TELE1 due to the statements and issued a five-day broadcasting ban on the programme. After TELE1 journalist Uğur Dündar criticized RTÜK over the decision, the body issued another 3 percent revenue fine against the channel.

“Harmless news or undisturbing comments can be made in any country in the world. But in developed democracies, freedom of the press and expression includes the right to receive shocking and disturbing news and comments as well, as has been repeatedly recognized by the European Court of Human Rights. In such democracies, it is expected that public officials must demonstrate a higher tolerance for criticism”, IPI Turkey National Committee Chair Emre Kızılkaya said.

Kızılkaya said that there can be no democracy when the press is silenced. “In its 72 years of operation, IPI has recorded countless press freedom violations in Turkey where politicians tried to silence journalists. But journalists have not stayed silent, nor they have given up. All those politicians who endangered democracy for their own sake and position left, but the passion for journalism among new generations has remained infinite. The important thing is solidarity among journalists and readers’ appreciation of quality journalism without falling into the trap of cheap politics.”

IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen condemned the arrest of Kabaş.

“Journalists, and indeed all citizens, have the right to criticize their elected officials, even if that criticism is shocking or disturbing to some. That is how democracies work”, he said. “As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Turkey is bound to respect these long-established principles. We call for the immediate release of Sedef Kabaş and the dropping of all charges against her, and we urge Turkey to abolish its law on insulting the president in line with international human rights standards.”

He added: “We are also disturbed by RTÜK’s decision to punish TELE1, which continues the council’s pattern of disproportionately targeting independent television broadcasters in Turkey. RTÜK, too, must respect the fundamental right of freedom of expression, and we call on RTÜK to rescind both the fine and the broadcast ban against TELE1.”

RTÜK also recently issued a 3 percent administrative revenue fine against Fox TV over news anchor Selçuk Tepeli’s comments critical of the government. According to RTÜK opposition member İlhan Taşçı, the total amount of administrative fines given in the January 24 meeting amounts to 6 million Turkish Liras (approx. 400,000 euros).

Last year in October, IPI led a joint press freedom mission to Turkey to meet officials and various institutions in Istanbul and Ankara. The mission delegation included representatives of a number of leading international press freedom and free expression organizations including IPI, Article 19, CPJ, ECPMF, HRW, OBCT, PEN International, RSF and SEEMO.

The mission delegation raised concerns about jailed journalists in Turkey; bans and fines by RTÜK and Press Advertising Agency (BİK) aimed at silencing critical media; and digital censorship.

This statement was coordinated by IPI as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.

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Turkey: Concern over proposals to introduce new regulation of…

Turkey: Concern over proposals to introduce new regulation of “fake” and “foreign-funded” news

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) and undersigned partner organisations are concerned about and condemn recent statements by Turkish President Erdoğan and other government officials pertaining to the introduction of new regulation of so-called fake news and “foreign-funded” news in the country. Officials’ targeting several critical and independent media outlets for securing funds abroad is a clear move to stifle further the free media in Turkey by controlling content. We call on the Turkish legislators to ensure that any new measures are fully in line with Turkey’s obligations under domestic and international law that protect free speech and media pluralism.

On 21 July, President Erdoğan in an interview was asked whether there is a law that envisages serious criminal sanctions for disseminating fake news through traditional and social media. In response, he announced that a study will be carried out in Parliament in October, after the summer recess, that will address the issue, building on the social media law that was passed last year. Erdoğan characterised fake news as a threat to Turkish democracy on par with terrorism, in which opposition parties are implicated. The same day, the Presidential Communications Directorate announced that Parliament will take new legal steps against foreign funding of local media outlets “to ensure the people’s access to accurate news”.

These statements were followed by a social media campaign targeting specific independent outlets such as Medyascope for receiving funds from the US-based Chrest Foundation. Medyascope received the 2016 IPI Free Media Pioneer Award for its progressive and critical news coverage in Turkey.

Taken together, these statements create the impression that the Turkish government is preparing to introduce new legal measures that will further undermine media freedom and pluralism in the country.

In relation to so-called fake news, we are concerned that enacting any kind of legal duty of “truth” will in practice amount to the creation of a new tool for government censorship: empowering public officials to decide what is true and what is not entails accepting that the authorities have a right to silence voices with whom they disagree. This prospect is especially worrisome in light of Turkey’s poor track record in respecting freedom of speech and legitimate criticism of the authorities. Accordingly, as we recognise that the spread of disinformation and propaganda is indeed of concern, we urge that any measures to counter it must be based on international freedom of expression law and standards, such as those set out in the 2017 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and “Fake News”, Disinformation and Propaganda.

Furthermore, we note that funding media via (foreign) project funding has become an important source of income for many independent outlets in Turkey, as government pressure has intensified, including through the lack of local funds for media outlets critical of the government and uneven distribution of public advertising, as well as the imposition of fines and advertisement bans by media regulator Radio & TV Higher Council (RTÜK) and public advertising agency BIK. We are concerned that measures to restrict foreign funding, or to paint its recipients as foreign propagandists, are a clear move to demonise the free media and will further increase the pressure on the few remaining independent outlets. Currently, more than 90% of domestic media are directly or indirectly controlled by the government or the ruling AKP.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19
  • Articolo21
  • Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
  • Association of Journalists, Ankara
  • Broadcast and Printing Press Workers Union of Turkey / DİSK Basın-İş
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • Danish PEN
  • English PEN
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • IFEX
  • IFoX Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey
  • IPS Communication  Foundation
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS)
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • Media Research Association (MEDAR)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • PEN International
  • PEN Netherlands
  • PEN Vlaanderen
  • South East Europe Media Organisation  (SEEMO)
  • Swedish PEN