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Debate: Threats to media freedom and journalists’ security in Europe
28 January 2020

Madam President, dear colleagues,


I would like to congratulate Lord George Foulkes for his comprehensive work, highlighting threats to journalists and media freedom in general. We all agree that at the heart of true democracy lies an independent and pluralistic media. Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental values of humankind. Journalists’ right to work under safe conditions without harassment, intimidation or violence has long been acknowledged by international and regional organisations, namely the UN, the EU, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and is a core principle of the European Convention on Human Rights. That is why it is so alarming that member states of the Council of Europe are found to be leaders on a worldwide scale of the stifling of the press, an alarming component of an autocratic, undemocratic state.


As stipulated in the draft resolution, the country with the highest number of imprisoned journalists in Europe and ranking second after China on a worldwide scale is Turkey. Opposition newspapers and news sites in Turkey have been persecuted and shot down. Hundreds of Turkish journalists are in exile, hundreds are in prisons for years awaiting trial, no one knows how many have self-censored for fear for their and their families’ lives. Turkey, unfortunately, leads the world in imprisoned journalists and continues to arrest anyone who voices opposition to the government. Those who are not bullied into submission have found themselves being owned by pro-government organisations. Just to give an example, in March 2018, Turkey’s largest media group, Doğan media company, which includes the Hürriyet newspaper as well as CNN Türk, have passed over to the pro-government Demirören Holding.


In March 2019, Amnesty International characterised Turkey as the world’s largest prison for journalists. Nazli Ilicak a 75-year-old lady journalist was imprisoned on a life sentence on the accusation of terrorism, was later released only to be arrested again in November 2019. Pinar Gayip is on trial being accused of being a member of a terrorist organisation for writing about the brutal way police broke up a weekly video of a group of women protesting and demanding accountability for the disappearance of their family members.


Journalists of Cumhuriyet newspaper, despite winning their appeal against a conviction for terrorism, however, went on to hear that their sentence was upheld. The above are just a handful of the hundreds, if not thousands, of examples that occur in Turkey, which constitute a grave violation, in any sense, of the rule of law, of freedom of expression, of any basic human right.


Dear colleagues, the Council of Europe has repeatedly noted that protecting the safety of journalists is imperative. It is an obligation that every state must uphold without pretexts or excuses. If the state fails to uphold this basic and fundamental principle, it must be held accountable for denying this profound human right.

Dear colleagues, I fully agree with this resolution before us today. The question however still remains: what happens if a state continuously fails to meet its obligations?

Thank you.

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