Turkey cancels press cards for opposition journalists

Turkey’s Presidential Communications Directorate on Friday cancelled press cards of journalists working for nationwide opposition dailies BirGün and Evrensel.

The directorate had delayed the renewal of the cards for months, BirGün wrote

The communications directorate had a list of journalists to be rejected, Evrensel quoted an unnamed official as saying.  

BirGün’s publisher, publishing coordinators, supplements director, reporters and one columnist had their cards cancelled.

Evrensel’s reporters with permanent cards (that never expire), editor-in-chief, news director, managing editor, redactor, and reporters with temporary cards had theirs cancelled as well.

Several of the journalists were members of Turkey’s Union of Journalists, and Evrensel’s news director was the chairman of Turkey’s Union of Journalists.

The total number of cards cancelled on Friday is currently unknown, as the journalists were not officially notified. Journalists have individually confirmed the cancellations.

“When I checked my card through the e-government website, I saw it was cancelled,” BirGün columnist and Başkent University faculty Dr Doğan Tılıç said in a statement. 

“If (journalists) need adjusting, our Communications Directorate could handle that,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said last year, as quoted by the Contemporary Journalists Association’s statement on the cancellations.  

International Press Institute (IPI) issued a statement condemning the cancellations, calling it “a brazen attack on independent journalism and critical media.”

“IPI views the development as part of the government’s ongoing targeting of Evrensel for its critical journalism and calls on the authorities to immediately revoke the decision and provide an immediate explanation,” the statement said.

Turkish Journalists' Association Secretary General Sibel Güneş said a systemic oppression continued to keep journalists from doing their jobs on the anniversary of the assassination of Uğur Mumcu, one of Turkey’s most important investigative journalists.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during a press conference after his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that his sensibilities on press freedom were well known, and that journalists, including German citizens, having issues in Turkey was out of the question.  

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a meeting with NGO representatives on Friday, discussed the German journalists who were not issued press cards in Turkey, Media and Law Studies Association Co-director Veysel Ok said.  

Press cards can be crucial for journalists, as they grant holders the right to follow official meetings, court cases and any meeting that is not confidential, international recognition as journalists, and protection from possible harm when they report on unrest.

A journalist must never “engage in behaviour against national security and public order” to be able to hold a press card, according to regulations put in place in December 2018.

Turkey has cancelled at least 685 press cards since the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016 over links to groups Ankara considers threats to national security, including having communicated with their members.

Evrensel and BirGün have faced financial strain due to advertising bans, which constitutes an important part of the budget for independent newspapers.