Presidency of the Republic of Turkey
Directorate of Communications
Kızılırmak Mah. Mevlana Bulvarı
No. 144 Çankaya, Ankara
July 14, 2021
Sent via email
Dear Mr. Altun,
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent non-governmental organization that champions press freedom around the world, writes to request that you reconsider your approach to press card regulations in Turkey and establish a constructive dialogue with journalists to avoid repeated court battles over such regulations.
This April, the Council of State suspended changes to the press card regulations that had been made in 2018, saying that those rules enabled journalists’ cards to be canceled for arbitrary or ambiguous reasons. Your office supplied an updated version of those regulations in May, but local journalist organizations have filed suit alleging that those updates do not resolve the problems raised by the Council of State.
Following the release of updated regulations in May, you tweeted that those rules would “prevent those who make propaganda for terrorism and violence from hiding behind the press card.”
However, far from being a shield used for such purposes, many journalists cannot obtain press cards at all, according to CPJ interviews and research. Journalists told CPJ that they believe the process to obtain cards is discriminating and partisan, and some who cover the government critically have said they do not consider applying, even if they meet the criteria, because they do not believe they will be approved. Furthermore, hundreds of previously credentialed journalists have been waiting indefinitely for new press cards after being forced to reapply due to a change in the card’s color.
Moreover, journalists working at digital media outlets do not qualify for cards at all, an obvious problem in the age of digital journalism.
The press card is essential, particularly for journalists reporting on politics in Ankara, those in the field who must frequently present the card to security forces, and for reporters to be able to assert their status as journalists against officials who attempt to mischaracterize their work.
The press card should be easily obtainable, and its issuance should not be subject to discrimination based on a journalist or outlet’s politics, coverage, or medium. The revocation process for press cards should be unambiguous and not up to individual interpretation.
We urge you to abandon your hostile rhetoric toward journalists in Turkey and to work cooperatively with domestic journalist organizations to devise new regulations, rather than fighting those groups in court.
We also urge you to take the necessary steps to remove all hints of partisanship within the press card process, and to grant the card immediately to all journalists who meet its requirements regardless of their medium or political focus.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We look forward to your response.
Gulnoza Said, Ph.D.
Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator
Committee to Protect Journalists