Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gives a televised interview in Istanbul on January 5, 2020. The Turkish government recently cancelled hundreds of journalists' press passes. (Presidential Press Service via AP)

Turkish authorities cancel press passes for hundreds of journalists

January 24, 2020 12:30 PM ET

Istanbul, January 24, 2020 -- Turkish authorities should restore the recently cancelled press cards of hundreds of reporters, and establish a transparent and impartial process for obtaining press passes, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

According to a statement by the Journalist’s Union of Turkey, an independent trade group, the Directorate of Communications changed the press cards’ color from yellow to turquoise last year, and gave journalists until yesterday to reapply for new cards. The directorate then denied many of those reapplications, and yesterday invalidated all yellow cards still in use, according to the statement.

Journalists are legally allowed to work without press cards, but the passes allow reporters to access government buildings like the Parliament, according to the union statement and a report by independent Turkish news agency Bianet.

As many as 1,400 press cards have been cancelled in recent months, according to Gökhan Durmuş, the chairperson of the Journalist’s Union of Turkey, who spoke to CPJ via phone.

"Turkey's decision to cancel the press cards for hundreds of journalists is yet another attack on independent reporting and is absolutely unacceptable," said Gulnoza Said, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. "Authorities should immediately restore the journalists' press credentials, and should ensure that passes are granted in an impartial process.”

The cancellations, which were posted on the Directorate of Communications’ website, did not include any reasons for the decision, according to a report by the independent leftist daily Evrensel.

Sixteen journalists at Evrensel, including chief editor Fatih Polat, had their credentials cancelled, according to the newspaper’s report. Journalists working at the leftist dailies BirGün and Cumhuriyet also had their credentials cancelled, according to a report by German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

CPJ was unable to find reports of pro-government reporters who have lost their press passes.

Press cards are issued by the Directorate of Communications, which operates as part of the president’s office, according to Evrensel. CPJ emailed the directorate and the president’s office for comment, but did not immediately receive any responses.

Turkish authorities previously revoked nearly 900 journalists’ press passes in 2016, as CPJ reported at the time.

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