A new regulation on issuing press cards has come into existence and unions and journalism chambers have reacted against it. Turkish Journalists Society deemed the new regulation as the most backward one so far, while Contemporary Journalists Association stated that the regulation turns journalists into officers of Presidential Palace, as Journalists Union called for rejection of the monopoly over press cards.
Following its publication on the Official Gazette, the Press Cards Regulation has become the target of criticism. Turkish Journalists Society board issued a statement “as its nature, journalism is a profession based on right to information. This is why critical journalism has always been targeted by governments throughout history. Under circumstances that impose unfair judicial process targeting the people in Turkey, any journalist can appear before court and be sentenced. This new regulation is a coup on the profession. The Commission for Press Cards is not a democratic structure either. Since 1947, there have been 13 regulations on Press Cards, with 14th coming into practice on December 14, 2018. The most recent regulation is the most regressive of its kind, presenting considerable threat against the profession of journalism.”
Restrictions Against Issuing Press Cards
“In order to be issued a press card, a person must never have been convicted of any terror crimes listed on Article 3 of Anti-Terror Law and/or crimes listed on propagating terrorism in Article 4 of Anti-Terror Law numbered 3713. Under the same article, it would be impossible for someone to be issued a press card if the person has been convicted of crimes against public order listed in Turkish Penal Code numbered 5237.”
Moreover, the regulation brings new conditions to be issued a press card; “to have never been convicted of instigation to commit a crime, promoting crime & criminal(s), instigating people to hatred & hostilities or defamation of the people, crimes against national defense, state secrets, espionage.”
The fact that these clauses are open to interpretation puts any journalist chasing after a news piece into risk of losing their press cards. Moreover, the new regulations continue to preserve the clause on issuing press cards for legal consultants and bureaucrats.
Constitution of the Press Card Commission
Article 19 of the Press Card Regulation reduces the number of members in Press Card Commission from 15 to 9, consisting only of members of Communications Directorate.
Positive Aspects of the New Regulation
The new regulation includes journalists working for digital-born platforms publishing their news online as members of media, unlike previous regulations. Article 6 also prohibits issuing of press cards to those who have been convicted of sexual assault, which is considered as an improvement.
Journalists Union of Turkey is Against Monopoly of Issuing Press Cards
“At a time when rule of law and impartiality of judiciary is being discussed widely in the society, when hundreds of journalists are unlawfully being persecuted and 144 journalists are behind prison bars, this new regulation means cancellation of press cards. Reduction of number of Press Card Commissioners from 15 to 9 and further reduction of journalistic chamber representatives in this commission to 3 is unacceptable. This regulation is a declaration that only pro-government media’s journalists will be issued press cards. We call upon the Communications Directorate to cancel this regulation and consult to journalistic chambers to curate a new regulation that protects journalists and journalism.”
Converting Journalists into Presidential Officers
Contemporary Journalists Association harshly criticized the new regulation, “we reject the conversion of journalists into presidential officers. It is only with the name of this regulation that is about ‘press’ which is obviously penned by those who are ignorant of the fact that journalism is about freedom of thought and free expression; and it aims to turn journalism into an office of the government. Those who have for long been attempting to suppress our profession that is based on asking questions, obviously have realized that they will not succeed in this and tried to codify the office mentality in their minds into press definition. No matter how much they try, journalism is not a profession that relies on regulations but on the contrary it is done against regulations, relying on universal principles and it will remain as such. As long as this kind of oppressive restrictions exist, so will journalism.