Newspaper associations write to VP to urge him to raise issue of repression of journalists during upcoming visit to Turkey
Arlington, VA – August 18, 2016 — Today, two leading media organizations representing news organizations around the world – the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) – wrote to Vice President Joseph Biden urging him, on his upcoming visit to Ankara, Turkey on August 24, to raise with the Turkish government the increasing problem of journalists becoming a target for state repression, and to request the immediate release of those journalists who have been sent to jail or who are awaiting trial simply for carrying out their professional duties.
“We encourage Vice President Biden to call on the democratically elected Turkish government to actively uphold the fundamental human right of freedom of expression and to reinstate press freedoms for the benefit of current and future generations,” said NAA President and CEO David Chavern.
For many years, Turkey has had more free-expression cases filed against it in the European Court of Human Rights than any other signatory to the convention.
Despite repeated attempts by international press organizations to raise concerns with the Turkish authorities and encourage a dialogue, these free press issues have been unaddressed. WAN-IFRA President Tomas Brunegård stated, “We are dismayed by the incessant pressure our Turkish colleagues have been facing and stand shoulder to shoulder with the media community in this time of crisis. The Turkish state is responsible for safeguarding the freedom of the press yet is so far failing to meet its international obligations in this regard. Instead, journalists and the media have become the victims of a deliberate effort to silence critical opinion that we condemn in the strongest possible terms.”
Some prominent journalists critical of the government have been arrested and imprisoned, accused of espionage and treason with the prospect of lengthy sentences if convicted. Since July’s failed coup, the problem has intensified, with many journalists, editors and media owners living in fear of reprisal. “A free press, in Turkey or anywhere else, is a fundamental cornerstone for a developed, democratic and peaceful society,” stated Marcelo Rech, President of the WAN-IFRA World Editors Forum. “As such, the editors around the world expect respect for the integrity of their colleagues under any circumstances.”
Specifically, the letter asks Vice President Biden to seek assurances that the Turkish government will respect the independence of the press and the right of the Turkish media to operate free from harassment and intervention; reinstate ownership to independent media outlets that have been shut down by the government and its supporters; and recognize its responsibilities and obligations to freedom of expression under the international covenants to which Turkey is a signatory.
Chavern adds, “Above all, we ask that Turkey prioritize journalists’ safety.”