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154 journalists call on Turkish gov’t to stop violating freedoms of LGBTI+ individuals

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One hundred fifty-four members of the press have issued a joint statement on the occasion of Pride Month declaring that they no longer want to cover news about bans and violence against LGBTI+ individuals in Turkey but rather their struggle for an expansion of their freedoms, local media reported on Wednesday.

In the statement released on Wednesday, 154 journalists said they want to make the voice of Turkey’s LGBTI+ community heard rather than covering news about the bans and violence targeting them, especially during Pride Marches.

Among the journalists were Bahadır Özgür, a columnist for the opposition BirGün daily; Evrim Kepenek, the editor of women and LGBTI+ news at the Bianet news website; Reuters correspondent Ece Toksabay; opposition Evrensel daily journalist Meltem Akyol; and Mustafa Kuleli, vice president of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and editor-in-chief of the Journo news website.

“As soon as LGBTI+ Pride Month arrives, bans on events and marches organized by LGBTI+ individuals begin. We, as journalists, have to write news about new instances of police violence and arrests every day. However … we want to document the struggle for an expansion of freedoms during LGBTI+ Pride Marches, not the violence,” the journalists said.

They added that they do not approve of the hostility in politics that escalated during the country’s recent elections.

The journalists emphasized that the violence that they have also become victims of in Pride Marches “directly threatens social harmony.”

They called on the authorities to stop violating the freedoms of expression and assembly of LGBTI+ individuals and allow press members to do their job without hindrance.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made LGBTI+ people into his favorite target for his re-election campaign, accusing them of threatening traditional family values and calling them “perverse.”

He also attacked opposition challenger Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for pledging to “respect everyone’s beliefs, lifestyles and identities,” including those of the LGBTI+ community.

Erdoğan continued to target them even after extending his two-decade rule until 2028 in the historic May 28 run-off election.

“Is the CHP LGBT? Is the HDP LGBT?” he asked his supporters in a speech in İstanbul, referring to Kılıçdaroğlu’s secular party and the main pro-Kurdish group that supported the opposition alliance. “Yes!” the crowd roared in reply.

However, when he asked his supporters whether his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was LGBTI+-friendly, “No!” was the unanimous rejoinder.

Although homosexuality was decriminalized by the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey, in 1858, it is widely frowned upon by large swaths of society, including Erdoğan’s ruling AKP, while same-sex couples are not legal.

In 2021, the government withdrew from the Istanbul Convention on protecting women’s rights, claiming it encouraged homosexuality and threatened the traditional family structure.

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