The freedom of press and expression commitments of the parties participating the election

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PROMISES BY THE OPPOSITION, JUSTIFICATIONS BY THE GOVERNMENT

The parties taking part in the parliamentary election contest that will end up on June 24 have revealed their election bulletins. While there are several promises concerning the freedom of press and expression in the bulletins of the opposition parties, the ruling party has asserted that they “expanded the freedom of press”.

Çınar Livane Özer

More than one hundred press members are prisoners on remand in Turkey. The courts are full of journalists who are on trial for their reported news, TV shows. According to Reporters Without Borders’ 2018 World Press Freedom Index report, Turkey is ranked as 157th country among 180 countries. Well, what commitments have been made by the rival parties against these catastrophic facts concerning the freedom of press and expression in their election bulletins?

COMMON PROMISES

The common promises that appear in the election manifestoes of the Republican People’s Party (RPP), the Good Party (GP), the Felicity Party (FP) as the components of the Nation Alliance and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are “removing the censor on the press, providing a pluralist venue for the media, distributing the income sources like public advertisements, preventing monopolization in the media sector, freeing the RTSC (Radio and Television Supreme Council) from being an apparatus of oppression”. However, the detainee journalists are only mentioned in the RPP’s and the PDP’s manifestoes. Both parties have made the commitment that the detainees would be released, while the Felicity Party has put the annotation of “not getting involved in crime”.

CUMHURIYET HALK PARTISI GENEL BASKANI KEMAL KILICDAROGLU FOTOGRAF: ZIYA KOSEOGLU/CHP GENEL MERKEZI

The election manifestoes of the ruling Party, the Justice and Development Party (JDP), and her ally the Nationalist Movement Party (NMP) include no promises concerning the freedom of press and express. The JDP argues that “we removed the threats to freedom of expression and expanded the press freedom, while the NMP reveals her “faith to press freedom”.

Here are the parties’ election promises concerning the freedom of press and expression…

‘WE WILL PUT AN END TO THE DETAINEE PRISONERS SCANDAL’

Compiled under the title “Free Media, Free Internet, Stop the Unfair Competition and the Tutelage in the Media Sector” the uppermost RPP’s election promises are turning the media into the fourth estate again, eliminating the barriers to the right reaching the truth for citizens and removing the bans on the internet and social media. For the detainee prisoners the followings are manifested:

  • We will put an end to the detainee journalist scandal.
  • We will preclude the situations such as dismissal, embargo, police raid, unlawful trial, censorship and suits for libel that the writers, journalists and media members are exposed to.
  • We will punish the crimes against the press members severely, as in the crimes against the public officials.
  • We will reduce scope of the notion of state secret that has become a pillar for the arbitrary treatments against politicians and journalists. We will not permit the concealment of any crime under the name state secret.
  • We will stop the profiling and social media surveillances that maintain the délation culture and the surveillance society.

‘TRTC (TURKISH RADIO AND TELEVISION CORPORATION) WILL BE SOLD’

More concrete promises have taken place in the Good Party’s manifesto. The most interesting one of them is the sale of TRTC. While other opposition parties have been stated that TRTC would be transformed into a institution grounding on public broadcasting, the Good Party asserted that “TRTC is not a reformable institution any more. It does not fulfill the needs of society and insensitive to the project aims, and has become an institution wasting public funds and national income. We will sell TRTC which is a huge burden for every single citizen and the state at present.”

Besides, the abolition of the provisions of the Law on Regulating Broadcasting in the Internet and Fighting against Crimes Committed through Internet Broadcasting that allows the website banning and the government administrative control over the internet and also the legislation of the Law on Media Communication and Public Relations are the promises that take place in the Good Party’s election bulletin.

Promising the removal of the access restrictions to the collective content production channels such as Wikipedia, the Good Party has enumerated among her promises the termination of RTSC’s supervisory authority and the achievement of the press freedom compatible to the European Union criteria.

‘THE JOURNALISTS NOT GET INVOLVED IN CRIME DE FACTO’

The Felicity Party has not declared her election bulletin yet. But according to the latest information received, the bulletin will include the regulations that provide the media employees with better working and living conditions.

“We will protect rights of the journalists who did not get involved in crime and are under the juridical pressure.” says the bulletin and it states the Party’s promises as follows: “An idea or a thought is expressible not because of its being reasonable but because it has nothing to do with insultation and violence. Any government has no right to restrict any displeasing idea from the public sphere and punish the enunciators of them. For a transparent and accountable government, as well as for guaranteeing the freedom of information, we will ensure all the media, particularly radio, television and newspapers, to be objective and nonpartisan and the media owners to carry on business only in the sector.”

‘THE INSTITUTION SHUT DOWN BY THE STATE OF EMERGENCY DECREES WILL BE REOPENED’

Participating in the election by her own, the PDP states in her election bulletin that “there will be no detainee journalists” and also enumerates the election promises as reopening all the media institutions shut down by the state of emergency decrees, giving back their appropriated assets and, in addition, removing all the laws that prevent press freedom. The legislation of a Press Ethical Code for the promotion of the professional, ethical and free journalism maxims in all printed, visual and digital media is one of the PDP’s promises. Apart from the RPP’s and the Good Party’s bulletins, the PDP’s election bulletin includes the title of the assurance of the broadcasting in mother tongue. Including the prevention of the rhetoric that causes provocation, sexism, targeting, hatred in her political program, the PDP says: “We will put an end to the prohibitions on the social media platform such as Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter.”

DID SOMEONE SAY PRESS FREEDOM?

The JDP, in her election bulletin, argues that during her reign the prohibitions on freedom of expression have been removed and freedom of press was expanded. The JDP makes the following statements in the bulletin:

“In our 16 years long reign, most of the legislations were reviewed and many restrictive, anti-democratic regulations were removed. We changed the basic laws that were imposed to the society during the coup periods. We removed the obstacles to freedom of expression and expanded freedom of press. We added the statement that “any expression of thought aiming at criticism does not constitute a crime” for all regulations for the crimes concerning freedom of expression, and we guaranteed freedom of criticism. Because of their being crime apparatus, banning the seize of the printing houses, their appurtenances and printing equipments, and their retentions from operation, became a constitutional rule. Thousands of past publication bans and confiscation commands were terminated. We liberated thousands of banned, seized, confiscated publications.”

RECURRING ‘SEPARATION’ PHOBIA OF THE NMP

Participating in the election with the ruling party under the “Public Alliance”, the NMP has only made the following statement: “Unless being against the indivisible integrity of the state with its territory and nation, the fundamental principles of the Republic, national security and public morals, we believe, the press, broadcasts and other media ought not to be restricted, censored, and to be free.”