Council of State rules against 2018 regulation making press card cancellations easier

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The Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, has suspended the execution of some articles of a 2018 regulation that reset the criteria for journalists to obtain press cards and made it easier for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to cancel them, Turkish media reported on Thursday.

The regulation adopted in December 2018 was initially taken to the Council of State by Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD), in February 2019. The court’s 10th Chamber ruled to suspend the execution of only one of its 44 articles.

However, the court’s highest organ, the Plenary Session of the Administrative Law Chamber (İDDK), recently suspended the execution of several of the most controversial articles of the regulation – including Articles 25, 29 and 30, which have been criticized for curbing freedom of the press in Turkey – in response to an appeal by the ÇGD.

The chamber underlined in its decision that Turkey’s Presidential Communications Directorate, which drafted the regulation, cannot cancel press cards for “ambiguous and arbitrary” reasons such as “conduct against national security or the public order” and “actions that damage the professional dignity of journalism.”

The decision emphasizing the importance of a state of law and press freedom also noted that the regulation must ensure that journalists will not be subjected to any punishment for covering “news or ideas that are regarded as negative or wrong by a segment of the public or the government or [news] that disturbs them.”

The regulation violates some of the key principles of proper lawmaking, such as legal predictability and certainty, due to including ambiguous phrases and failing to specify which government body has the authority to cancel press cards, the chamber stated.

They also conveyed the necessity of amendments to prevent any arbitrary intervention into journalists’ rights and the inclusion of an explicit statement of the criteria that allow the presidency to determine which people will be granted press cards.

Turkey’s Press Cards Commission, which is composed of journalists from a number of state-run and pro-government media outlets and newspapers, was subordinated to the presidency from the prime ministry as part of Turkey’s transition to an executive presidential system in 2018.

Since then, large numbers of journalists critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP government have had their press cards revoked or their applications for renewal denied.

It is difficult for journalists to do their jobs without press cards in Turkey as they need them for accreditation to attend certain events, follow trials and enter the Turkish Parliament.

The Turkish government increased its crackdown on critical media outlets and journalists in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, following which dozens of journalists were jailed and more than 200 media outlets were closed down on the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

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