Cts, Tem

French journalist Mathias Depardon was detained almost a month ago while taking photographs for National Geographic close to Hasankeyf, a historical area of Southeast Anatolia that will soon be inundated by the waters from a controversial dam.

Since that day, Depardon has been kept in isolation despite announcements that he would be deported. In protest at his treatment, the journalist launched a hunger strike, ending it after finally being permitted to meet with French consular officials on 27 May.

We are currently witnessing that even foreign journalists are now receiving their share of Turkey’s oppression. Turkey’s government, which has altered the media landscape in the country and exerted pressure on the press in an effort to manufacture consent for its policies, has become uncomfortable with the international media. At present, it is attempting to prevent international media representatives from accessing the news in Turkey by canceling permits, deporting journalists, declaring media professionals as spies and arresting press workers.

Accessing the news is a universal right; no one can restrict this right by criminalizing international media representatives. We demand the immediate release of all captive journalists, particularly French journalist Mathias Depardon, as well as Dicle News Agency (DİHA) Board of Directors Chair Zekeriya Güzüpek and Kurdish Editor Mehmet Ali Ertaş.

The chief web editor of Cumhuriyet newspaper, DİSK Basın-İş member Oğuz Güven, was detained by police in a house raid this morning. Naturally, we weren’t surprised, as we have all born witness to what has happened to Cumhuriyet in recent months.

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.

We, as women press workers, salute the hundreds of thousands of women that will be hitting the streets today in Turkey and around the world to march against male violence, inequality and all manners of discrimination. On 8 March International Women’s Day, we note once more our desire to see a world in which women are not murdered; in which women are not subjected to discrimination on the street, at home and at work – in short, everywhere; in which men do not speak on behalf of women; in which only we make decisions about our lives and bodies; in which peace, and not war, reigns; and in which the one who is right is always victorious.

We will continue to fight for a life in which imprisoned women journalists will be released, in which newspapers and TV stations will not be closed with the “extraordinary powers” endowed to the present government, in which women journalists and press workers are not left unemployed and in which there is no discrimination in the workplace.

We stand as one with all women – especially with those in more than 30 countries who have exercised their power over production to declare an International Day of Strike to oppose violence against women and the policies of “one-man regimes” that ignore women; with public workers who are resisting after losing their jobs through state of emergency decrees and with the women metal workers who lost their lives in a tragic bus accident in Bursa on 7 March.

Long Live 8 March, Long Live Women’s Solidarity

This soil has been witness to numerous tragic incidents resulting in the deaths of hundreds in recent years. Now, distressing allegations are emerging from Nisêbîn (Nusaybin). We can only learn about what is occurring in Nusaybin with the help of journalists.

Notice, however, that we are not calling for Nusaybin to be opened to journalists – that’s because there are almost no channels left to record the truth and share it with society. The pens and the cameras of the government can enter Nusaybin, and they will no doubt inform us about how residents there could not be happier with their state of affairs.

We know that this is not the truth, but we are deeply worried about the truth that will soon emerge. The reports of torture and extrajudicial execution are serious, and we are worried that a new black stain is about to go down in history.

We call on everyone, regardless of their political worldview, to defend the right to know the truth.

Defend press freedom, for Nusaybin and for Turkey.

Don’t bury your head in the sand and believe official statements. Together, let’s defend our right to know the truth.

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