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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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