Ankara, Aug 28 () - A Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy has questioned recently passed amendments in Turkey’s press card regulations, claiming that they will further “increase censorship” in the country.
“It is thought that the amendments may put press cards under the supervision of the bureaucracy, increase censorship and bring press freedom under the government’s control” CHP Istanbul deputy Gürsel Tekin said in a motion filed on Aug. 27.
“On which grounds is the Press Card Commission being taken under state control? Were the opinions of professional organization consulted regarding the predicted changes? Which news reports are aimed at being hidden from public by obliging the director-general to approve decisions of the Press Card Commission?”
Tekin asked government officials in his motion, regarding amendments published in the Official Gazette on Aug. 26.
“Even though easier access to release of press cards is mentioned, isn’t the real purpose of this amendment aiming to put the granting of these cards under the state’s control? On which grounds was it decided that indefinite press cards could be given to non-journalists of the [state-run] Anadolu Agency and TRT [public broadcaster, the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation], which led to public concern regarding their independence? Is it ethical that such a comprehensive decision was taken in haste by a transition government?” he asked.
According to the amendments initiated by the Prime Ministry’s Directorate General of Press and Information (BYEGM), deputy prime ministers will be given all the benefits that Turkish journalists who have indefinite press cards currently enjoy.
Indefinite press cards previously could only be given to journalists with 20 years of experience in the media sector.
The new amendment also allows non-journalist employees of state-run media institutions such Anadolu Agency and TRT to get press cards, an unprecedented move in Turkish history.
The criteria for forming the committee authorized to issue press cards, consisting of representatives from several journalism organizations for about 50 years, will also be changed with the amendment. As a result, the BYEGM will have more bearing on decisions, getting the right to assign most members of the committee rather than the right to name just two, which it previously had.