UK: Journalists urge Turkish ambassador to restore human rights

As more than 70 journalists continue to be detained under the state of emergency, national and international journalists’ trade union leaders have made an official delegation to the Turkish ambassador in London. They carried the banners of the media freedom campaign: ’Journalism is not a crime’

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One hundred and one media organisations, including three news agencies, 16 television channels, 23 radio stations, 45 daily newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishing houses have been closed down by government decree as President Erdogan cracks down on critical media following an apparent military coup attempt last month.

The National Union of Journalists General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet, with Jim Boumelha the Treasurer of the International Federation of Journalists and NUJ colleague Penny Quinton, met Ambassador Abdurrahman Bilgiç. He himself is a former journalist and was a government press officer 2003-2005, so he knows many Turkish journalists personally.

Mr Bilgiç has also served as deputy undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organisation MIT before he was promoted to ambassador. He told the journalists’ trade union delegation that he considered press freedom to be essential and offered to continue a dialogue with the unions about individual cases.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said after the meeting:

We welcome the opportunity to raise our concerns directly with the ambassador and will continue to keep in contact on a range of issues.  We remain deeply concerned about the plight of our colleagues in Turkey. Journalism is not a crime. We recognise the difficult circumstances in Turkey but the government should not continue with its harsh crackdown on the media."

The concerns raised include not only the detention of seventy five journalists but also the withdrawal of press cards, and the closure of newspapers, broadcasters and websites. With ECPMF and other media freedom campaigns, the International Federation of Journalists is promoting a solidarity campaign

Turkey and the UK have close ties through the NATO military alliance and in his official message on the Embassy website, Mr Bilgiç notes: “The economic and commercial relations between Turkey and Britain have steadily developed over the years. The UK has become one of the leading trade partners of Turkey. Our bilateral trade volume has reached an annual level of 15 billion dollars in 2013. The bigger share of this sum (8,8 billion dollars) is the export from Turkey to the UK. In 2013, the UK ranked 3rd in Turkey’s export partners. Approximately 2.5 million British tourists visit Turkey every year.“

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