The South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM) supports the “I am a journalist! Journalism is not a crime!” campaign launched by media freedom advocates from Turkey.
The initiative seeks to protect freedom of the press and become the voice of journalists who have been arrested, threatened and silenced in Turkey for reporting truthfully and showing professional solidarity. Another aim of the initiative is to protect citizens’ right to information.
Here is the campaign statement:
I am a journalist!
Journalism is not a crime.
In Turkey, oppression of the press is getting worse by the day.
Those who are struggling to protect the freedom of press and do their jobs are forced to pay a heavy price.
Journalists reporting from conflict zones are subjected to constant threats and harassment, putting their lives in danger.
Reporters, editors and writers often face criminal investigations, and prosecuted for defamation charges. Many of them are held in custody awaiting trial and are imprisoned because of their reporting or sharing them on social media.
Journalists are easily labeled as enemies of the state and traitors and prosecuted through accusations such as spying or “spreading propaganda of terrorist organisations”.
Foreign journalists who live and report from Turkey have not been immune to these allegations and targetings. Journalism has come under attack during different periods of Turkish history but members of the international press have never been targeted on this scale.
Journalists in the mainstream media are forced to work in such conditions that they cannot do their jobs properly anymore, and can be easily fired if they question the official government line. Heavy censorship is the norm and critical voices are constantly stigmatized.
The facts are restricted by frequent media blackouts. The media that challenge the blackouts are usually labelled as traitors or even as terrorists and presented as criminals. Various independent media outlets are under permanent threat of being shut down.
People from different sectors of society who show solidarity with journalists to defend press freedom as well as the right to information also become targets of investigation and prosecution.
However these pressures has not stopped tens of journalists from traveling to Diyarbakır from the western cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir this year to show solidarity with their colleagues who work under immense pressure in conflict zones. They stand together in front of prisons, the courthouses and at newsdesks.
Protecting freedom of press also means defending the public’s right of access to information.
In a society where the right to information is restricted, one cannot speak of democracy.
Therefore, as journalists we will do everything within our power to be the voice of those who have been marginalized, imprisoned, and silenced for doing their jobs and defending the freedom of press and freedom of access to information for all of us.
As journalists from Turkey, we cry out once again:
Journalism is not a crime !