We journalists were granted the pleasure of a “holiday” nearly half a century ago thanks to the implementation of the Media Law. Not unsurprisingly, they didn’t fail to divide us up even then, dubbing the day “Working Journalists’ Day.” We, however, know well that the most immutable rule of the game is the inevitability of unemployment.
We’ve never been much in the mood for celebrating the day. Our colleagues have either been killed, beaten, tried or locked away. If not that, then the conditions of wage slavery under which we work have sapped our energy to mark the day.
The rights that we possessed until 50 years ago under the Labor Law have been denied us article by article. As if that wasn’t enough, those that make the laws are salivating over the last crumbs on the table: our right to severance. They aim to change that, too, and usurp what remains of our rights.
More worryingly, however, they have set their sights on our right to life. Journalists attempting to report on the increasing violence in Kurdish provinces are being detained, roughed up and threatened with guns to the head with each passing day. Twenty years after Metin Göktepe was murdered by police in a sports hall, we have reached the point in which even the police’s acknowledgement that DİHA reporter Nedim Oruç was merely detained while being dragged to a sports hall is cause for celebration. In such times, this holiday is certainly no cause for celebration. Likewise, we rejoice when indictments against arrested journalists are actually completed in cases, even if they are devoid of anything resembling a legal basis. Can Dündar and Erdem Gül have been under arrest for more than a month-and-a-half, but an indictment is conspicuous by its absence.
Instead of going to cover the news, we beat a path to courthouses to provide testimony as suspects. No day passes without President Erdoğan’s army of lawyers opening a case against a newspaper or a journalist. Today, journalists are not just prosecuted for their news; instead, cases are opened after prosecutors parse every sentence and word in a story with a fine-tooth comb. Undoubtedly, social media postings are also fair game for prosecutors – although it would be wonderful if they just restricted themselves to opening cases.
Instructions are passed down directly to prosecutors and judges, ordering the arrest of our colleagues. Close to 30 journalists are still in prison on an array of charges. Those in power soberly proffer: “They’re not under arrest because of journalism,” but the only evidence in the hands of prosecutors against our colleagues are the journalists’ news stories.
We are duly postponing our celebration of the day until all journalists walk in liberty and have the freedom to write as they please.
We will commence the festivities when we can live and work under humane conditions.
Lest anyone forget, however, we will continue to write the truth, regardless of the oppression arrayed against us. Likewise, we will continue our struggle until we attain our rights.
We call on all our fellow journalists to organize under the union banner and join the struggle to ensure we can one day enjoy a true Working Journalists’ Day.