EU on new restrictions: freedom of media key issue for candidates

12th October 2014 / By Turkish Media Wach

Freedom and pluralism of the media are key issues potential candidate states are being asked to take into account in order to be a part of the European Union, Maja Kocijancic, a spokesperson for the European Commission, said when asked to evaluate an expanding media accreditation ban being placed on certain media outlets by the Turkish government.

Withholding press accreditation to bar journalists from attending events appears to have become common practice in Turkey, with several media outlets not given permission to cover President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inauguration ceremony on Aug. 28 as one example. The Prime Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are the most recent government institutions to have imposed an accreditation ban on certain media outlets that are not pro-government.

Kocijancic, responding to a question on the matter, said that freedom of expression is one of the essential foundations of the European Union. “The European Union is committed to respect freedom and pluralism of the media, as well as the right to information and [the] freedom of expression,” she said.

The spokesperson to the European Commission also said the commission “pays a lot of attention” to the issue of media freedoms during accession processes with candidate and aspirant countries.

“The state and maturity of democracy in a country can be judged based on the state of the freedom of the media and respect for it.”

Kocijancic added that the issue of media freedoms was also highlighted in the 2014 progress report prepared by the European Union regarding Turkey, a candidate state for the EU. She quoted the report: “The fact that the government is responsible for issuing a press card, granting the status of an accredited journalist, and the excessively strict requirements to obtain it — excluding categories of people who may otherwise fit the description, including young journalists, freelancers and the online media — contribute to self-censorship.”

A journalist from the Cihan news agency was asked just on Monday to leave the hall where Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s wife, Sare Davutoğlu, was delivering a speech about women victimized by war.

A group of private security guards approached Cihan’s İlhan Çulha, took his microphone and asked him to leave the hall, reportedly to prevent him from asking questions.

The EU opened accession negotiations with Turkey in October 2005.

Journalists from the Zaman Media, İpek Media and Samanyolu groups were barred from entering the Prime Ministry building to attend a press briefing of Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç after a Cabinet meeting on Nov. 3.

Journalists from Zaman were also not allowed to attend a press briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tanju Bilgiç.

Bilgiç, who had not organized a press briefing since he was appointed to the post on Jan. 14, 2014, held a press conference for the first time on Nov.4. Correspondents from Zaman and Cihan were stopped in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building by ministry personnel. When a Zaman correspondent asked the personnel who ordered them to stop journalists, they replied that they were following the orders of their superiors and the state.

Previously, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) imposed a media accreditation ban on a number of outlets, including the Taraf, Sözcü, Yurt, Birgün, Evrensel, Yeni Asya and Aydınlık dailies, as well as broadcasters Halk TV, Ulusal Kanal and Hayat TV, preventing them from covering a ceremony on July 1 announcing then-Prime Minister Erdoğan’s candidacy for the seat of president. İstanbul, Today’s Zaman.



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