The incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP) denied accreditation to dailies Cumhuriyet, Sözcü, Birgün, Evrensel, Aydınlık, Özgür Gündem and Yeniçağ to attend their fourth party congress on Sunday. The move drew sharp criticism from many quarters, including journalist associations and Kadri Gürsel, the head of the International Press Institute's (IPI) Turkey branch and a columnist at the daily Milliyet.
"The government is preventing the employees of newspapers whose publication policies they dislike from performing their professional [duties.] They are not showing any regard for the people's right to be informed. As the Turkish Journalists Society (TGC,) we are expecting this error to be rectified," the TGC said in a statement.
The Contemporary Lawyers Association (ÇHD) and the Federation of Journalists of Turkey (TGS) also issued statements that criticized the move, while the Journalists' Union of Turkey (TGS) cautioned that the AKP's decision could herald a new era of repression.
"The practice of accreditation represents an obstacle before the 'people's right to be informed' that has been guaranteed by the constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Such practices constitute an unacceptable approach that does not conform with a democratic culture," the TGS said.
PM Erdoğan: "Putting the press in its place"
"The congress of the ruling party that has been governing Turkey for the past 10 years constitute news material. This party's principal duty is to enable the press to follow this [event] without any discrimination. The AKP in power has now assumed a similar stance of ideological and political ostracization as the General Staff once did," said daily Milliyet columnist Kadri Gürsel, who is also the head of the IPI's Turkey branch.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's comments on the issue also attest to the fact that the AKP discriminates between what it considers to be the acceptable and the unacceptable press, according to Gürsel.
"Are we obliged to invite all newspapers to our congress? You write lies, and then we will invite you. That is not happening. It is our duty to put that media in its place when it disrespects us and showers us with curses. Why do you forget Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu (opposition CHP leader) that you did not call in certain press institutions back when you were a candidate mayor in Istanbul?" Prime Minister Erdoğan yesterday said.
Deputy Prime Minister Hüseyin Çelik also said that not everyone would be called into a wedding and that those who wished could follow the congress through television.
"This discrimination is intended to punish and ostracise. The prime minister talks about 'putting [the press] in its place.' It represents massive imprudence for a political party to 'put the press in its place,'" Kadri Gürsel said.
If we had been living in a democratic country, a certain number of journalists from each press institution would follow the congress on the field, Gürsel added.
"The delegation that is running Turkey has laid itself bare by limiting the freedom of press, journalists' access to news material and their readers' right to get news. They have revealed what they understand of democracy, pluralism, participation, comprehensiveness and the freedom of press," he said.
"The 'unacceptable' press has no place in this party's vision for 2023. It is sad that a prime minister who was elected into his post is occupying himself with such matters. The duty of the press is to provide a critical view. It is obvious that a political culture that defines criticism as an attack desires a Turkey that is deprived of news," Gürsel noted. (EKN)