Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned Turkey’s Presidential Directorate for Communications (CİB) for using press accreditation to increase pressure on the media, according a report in the Stockholm Center for Freedom.
The directorate has been using its press cards to restrict the freedom to inform, and journalists critical of the government have had their press cards withdrawn or their renewal requests unanswered in recent years, RSF said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
“As it seems too much to expect a presidential office to manage press card allocation impartially, we ask the government to reinstate an autonomous journalistic entity in order to put an end to biased practices that penalise critical journalists,” said Erol Önderoglu, RSF’s representative in Turkey.
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.
In response to a question by deputy chairperson of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Gülizar Biçer Karaca, the presidential directorate said it refused to renew the press cards of 1,371 journalists and that 1,238 press cards were cancelled between December 14, 2018 and December 31, 2020.
Karaca asked the directorate about the journalists whose press cards were cancelled or not renewed following a change in regulations in 2018. 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 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.
Turkey was also ranked 153rd among 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in April.
According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 172 journalists are behind bars in Turkey and 167 are wanted and either in exile or at large.