Turkey’s Presidential Communications Directorate, which has received 10,486 applications from journalists for the renewal of their press cards, refused to renew the press cards of 1,371 journalists, according to a report on the Bold Medya news website.
Deputy chairperson of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Gülizar Biçer Karaca asked the Presidential Communications Center (CİMER) about the journalists whose press cards were cancelled or not renewed following a change in regulations in 2018.
In response to Karaca’s questions, the Presidential Communications Directorate revealed that in addition to the press cards which have not been renewed, 1,238 press cards were cancelled between Dec. 14, 2018 and Dec. 31, 2020. The directorate said the number of press employees possessing a press card stood at 15,145 as of March 9, 2021.
A new regulation that resets the criteria for journalists to acquire press cards in Turkey was adopted in December 2018 in a move that disappointed and angered journalist organizations as it made the cancellation of press cards easier.
The new regulation included several controversial articles that are said to curb freedom of the press. In the section concerning the cancellation of press cards, a new article was added, saying that press cards shall be cancelled if journalists act against national security or the public order or make a habit of displaying such behavior.
Earlier Turkey’s General Directorate of Press and Information was tied to the prime ministry but was subordinated to the presidency after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was re-elected president in June 2018 under a newly adopted executive presidency that greatly expanded his powers.
Amid dwindling press freedom in Turkey, a report drafted by CHP lawmaker Utku Çakırözer, also a former journalist, showed that nearly 100 journalists appeared before a judge in March and that six of those journalists were given prison sentences totaling 15 years, two months. Three journalists were detained, while investigations were launched into two others.
The Turkish government increased its crackdown on critical media outlets and journalists in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016 following which dozens of journalists were jailed while more than 200 media outlets were closed down under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
The press cards of hundreds of journalists in Turkey were canceled on terrorism charges in the aftermath of the failed coup, when the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on its opponents under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 174 journalists are behind bars in Turkey and 167 are wanted and either in exile or at large.
A world leader in jailing journalists, Turkey was ranked 154th out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).