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The extreme right-wing Nation­al­ist Move­ment Par­ty (MHP) in Turkey,  has sub­mit­ted a bill aimed at fur­ther restrict­ing the work­ing of oppo­si­tion media and jour­nal­ists in particular.

Should this bill be adopt­ed, it will affect all inde­pen­dent media receiv­ing for­eign aid in Turkey, no mat­ter what it may con­sist of, and will ren­der their work impos­si­ble, by  restrict­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion, pub­li­ca­tion, inter­pre­ta­tion and free­dom of expres­sion of all such print­ed, audio and visu­al media…

The pro­ject­ed bill makes it manda­to­ry for media and jour­nal­ists receiv­ing funds direct­ly or indi­rect­ly from abroad, or ben­e­fit­ing from rev­enues derived from such funds, to reg­is­ter a “rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the for­eign cen­ter” with the Min­istry of the Inte­ri­or. Accord­ing to the pro­ject­ed bill, the rep­re­sen­ta­tive will have to sub­mit all doc­u­ments required by the Min­istry, thus record­ing and con­trol­ling all activ­i­ties of the media and of jour­nal­ists. All  writ­ten or dig­i­tal doc­u­ments of the media must be held ready for inspec­tion by the Min­istry. Media and jour­nal­ists will have to pro­vide details of activ­i­ties con­duct­ed with the help of for­eign funds.

The pro­ject­ed bill also con­tains sanc­tions for those dis­re­gard­ing these dis­po­si­tions. Media or jour­nal­ists receiv­ing for­eign funds may be sen­tenced from two to five years in prison or to a fine rang­ing from  100 thou­sand Turk­ish lira (approx­i­mate­ly 10 thou­sand Euros) to I mil­lion TL (approx­i­mate­ly 100 thou­sand Euros) should they fail to reg­is­ter the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of their for­eign cen­ter with the Min­istry of the Inte­ri­or. More­o­ev­er, the fact of “not shar­ing infor­ma­tion” with the Min­istry can car­ry a prison sen­tence of one to three years.

Fahret­tin Altun, the Pres­i­den­cy’s Direc­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, had already men­tioned in July that a new rul­ing would be adopt­ed con­cern­ing media receiv­ing for­eign aid: “The gov­ern­ment is keep­ing a close watch over alle­ga­tions that a foun­da­tion, head­quar­tered in the Unit­ed States, is financ­ing cer­tain media in Turkey,” Fahret­tin Altun declared. “Obvi­ous­ly, there is need to imple­ment a rul­ing for media orga­ni­za­tions oper­at­ing in our coun­try with funds pro­vid­ed by for­eign gov­ern­ments or organizations.”

At the time, Fahret­tin Altun was refer­ring to the Chrest Foun­da­tion, with head­quar­ters in the Unit­ed States who, accord­ing to avail­able pub­lic infor­ma­tion, had pro­vid­ed funds to Medyas­cope, Serbestiyet, 140 Journos and P24. The lat­ter were recent­ly tar­get­ed by “denun­ci­a­tions” on social net­works as “medias at the ser­vice” of well-known “for­eign ene­mies who wish to destroy Turkey”, a pure prod­uct of the “ene­my fac­to­ry” of the Turkey’s nation­al­ist intelligence…Inevitably, infor­ma­tion sup­plied by these inde­pen­dent media oppos­ing the regime are con­sid­ered to be “pro­pa­gan­da” and “fake news”. In case we aren’t all aware of this already, Turkey is doing won­der­ful­ly well, and is a par­adise in which the liv­ing is sublime…

The regime already has its “media allies” occu­py­ing the major part of the land­scape of Turk­ish media, through acqui­si­tions by pro-regime con­glom­er­ates or rules sub­ject­ing them to finan­cial pres­sure. There only remain some inde­pen­dents cov­er­ing real­i­ties as best they can, under the con­stant threat of clos­ing and/or  of sanc­tions land­ing at any time…

Con­di­tions have become almost impos­si­ble for jour­nal­ists who refuse to fol­low “the straight and nar­row path” imposed by the regime, and who insist on doing their job as jour­nal­ists. Turkey is one of the major coun­tries in the world when it comes to the impris­on­ment of pro­fes­sion­al jour­nal­ists and stands in 153rd place out of 180 coun­tries when it comes to free­dom of the press, accord­ing to Reporters With­out Bor­ders, who rarely take into account jour­nal­ists “with­out press cards”. In fact, the Turk­ish press card is denied to a great num­ber of jour­nal­ists who are tracked down, impris­oned, accused of “ter­ror­ism”…

Inde­pen­dent Turk­ish media and Turk­ish ver­sions of infor­ma­tion plat­forms belong­ing to for­eign gov­ern­ments, such as Deutsche Welle, BBC and Voice of Amer­i­ca, are the last ram­parts still stand­ing for true infor­ma­tion and, of course, the regime attempts to muz­zle them.

For­eign media in Turkey and press orga­ni­za­tions financed from abroad have been tar­get­ed by the gov­ern­ment for some time. The mat­ter was brought up in the report pub­lished by SETA (Foun­da­tion for Polit­i­cal, Eco­nom­ic and Social Research), a polit­i­cal think-tank based in Ankara. There fol­lowed a dis­cus­sion on funds col­lect­ed abroad and the gov­ern­ment was quick to announce, at each oppor­tu­ni­ty, that some arrange­ment would have to be reached on this mat­ter. This is not the first time inde­pen­dent and inter­na­tion­al media are accused in this way. Two years ago, SETA had already  point­ed out “a threat” to nation­al secu­ri­ty, after the pub­lic list­ing of the names of jour­nal­ists and media whose press activ­i­ties were con­sid­ered  as “spy­ing”. More­over, in a press release, TRÜK, the Supe­ri­or Coun­cil for Audio­vi­su­al media, declared that media orga­ni­za­tions receiv­ing funds from for­eign insti­tu­tions “could lead to nation­al secu­ri­ty problems.”

The Asso­ci­a­tion of Euro­pean Jour­nal­ists (AEJ), the Inter­na­tion­al Press Insti­tute (IPI) as well as PEN Inter­na­tion­al, the Turk­ish Union of Jour­nal­ists (TGS), and the orga­ni­za­tions for the pro­tec­tion of press free­dom have pub­lished their own dec­la­ra­tions, con­demn­ing these words…

Qu’en sera-t-il égale­ment des “bours­es” ou “prix” reçus par des jour­nal­istes de Turquie, de la part d’In­sti­tu­tions étrangères ?

What will be the fate of “bur­saries” or “prizes” award­ed to  Turk­ish jour­nal­istes from for­eign institutions?

There is noth­ing sur­pris­ing in see­ing the will to “muz­zle” voic­es in oppo­si­tion to the aspi­ra­tions of the regime, becom­ing a bind­ing law. And final­ly, the fact this pro­ject­ed bill is sub­mit­ted by the MHP is no sur­prise either, as it is the regime’s main partner…

The pro­ject­ed bill is to be debat­ed in par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion pri­or to mov­ing on to a vote in the Gen­er­al Assembly.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.