Government-led arbitrary practices against journalists critical of the government have entered a new phase after 94 veteran journalists -- many of whom work for the Zaman, Samanyolu, Cihan, Taraf and Bugün media outlets -- were denied permanent press cards, regardless of their eligibility.
The Prime Ministry's Directorate General of Press and Information (BYEGM) made a highly controversial decision to block a number of journalists from acquiring permanent press cards during a meeting held last December. In spite of authorizing the issuance of press cards for 208 new applicants, the directorate declined to award cards to a number of journalists applying to extend the validity of cards already in their possession.
Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, Zaman Deputy Editor-in-Chief Mehmet Kamış and Cüneyt Özdemir, producer of the 5N1K news program, were among those denied permanent press cards. Journalists who complete 20 years of service become eligible for permanent press cards, but Dumanlı, Kamış and Özdemir were denied permanent press cards without any reason.
Dumanlı had been targeted by a government-orchestrated police crackdown on the media on Dec. 14 and charged with leading and being a member of "an armed terrorist organization." He was released following several days of detention.
The list of the journalists denied these press cards will be re-examined during the next meeting of the directorate, scheduled for February or March.
Turgay Olcayto, the president of Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) and member of the Press Cards Commission, criticized the denial of press cards for journalists known for their critical stance against the government, saying that he has never heard of such strange actions on the part of the directorate.
"This recent incident disturbs us a lot. As a commission, we send a list of journalists who are eligible to obtain the press card, and the general directorate approves it. For years I served on the commission and I have not seen anything like this," Olcayto said.
Published on Today's Zaman, 12 January 2015, Monday