Today is World Press Freedom Day. For many in Turkey, it’s a day that has become like many others; for others, it’s a day on which announcements remind us about how far we have fallen in the world press freedom index. But it’s not a day of just mere words or statistics – especially for those held captive or their loved ones. We have shouted ourselves hoarse declaring that press freedom is a precondition for democracy and any system that recognizes human rights. But in a Turkey with journalists who are under arrest, on trial or deprived of the ability to make a living, such a situation restricts every citizen’s right to speak.
We’ve witnessed people in this country with banners proclaiming “Down with human rights,” as well as people that say “So-called defenders of human rights.” We’ve now come to the point in which there aren’t even any “so-called human rights.” Instead, with the European Convention on Human Rights suspended, we have an interminable state of emergency.
We know that beautiful days will return to this soil. Duly, we will work to maintain and plant new seeds of hope.
And a word to our colleagues and professional organizations: journalism is about acting as a witness to history, not prosecutors. The job of a journalist is to cover stories that are in the public interest. As such, in an era when the pressures have increased to such a degree, professional organizations must be as bold as the government. They must seek to protect freedoms, not the status quo.
We repeat once more that it is unacceptable for our colleagues to be consigned to languishing in isolation in prison and that they must be released immediately. We will continue to raise our voice for a country in which media organizations are not closed and journalists are not subjected to every manner of oppression.