November 13, 2015

Unions say pressure on sacked journos tantamount to hate crime

An ongoing politically motivated witch hunt against dozens of Turkish journalists who were earlier last month fired following a legally flawed court decision, is tantamount to a hate crime and must be stopped immediately, two Turkish reporters' unions said on Friday.

A government-appointed trustee who fired dozens of journalists after he was appointed to a media group critical of the government has also prevented the sacked journalists from receiving unemployment benefits, on trumped-up charges that they were acting against “moral values.” The Turkish unemployment insurance system provides on average TL 900 for as long as 10 months to people who have lost their job while they seek new employment. Police raided the headquarters of the media outlets last month after the Ankara 5th Criminal Court of Peace ruled for the takeover of the administration of Koza İpek Holding's companies, which included critical media outlets, in a government-backed move. The media outlets were the Bugün and Millet dailies, the Bugün TV and Kanaltürk TV stations and a radio station.

Journalist Metin Arslan, who worked for the Bugün daily before he was fired by a trustee, said on his Twitter account on Wednesday that the trustee told the Turkish Employment Organization (İŞKUR) in official documents that the journalists' contracts were terminated because they acted against “moral values.” Pak Media Labor Union (Pak Medya-İş) President İsmail Topçuoğlu said on Friday that the trustee is attempting to deprive the already sacked journalists from their legal rights such as unemployment benefits. “We have witnessed that it was the trustee who acted against moral values by insulting and threatening journalists before they were illegally sacked. …this is a hate crime and we call on unions to raise their voices,” Topçuoğlu asserted.

In another harsh criticism, the Contemporary Journalists Association (ÇGD) said in a written statement on Friday that the trustee “has been reduced to setting his eye on laborers' basic rights.” “They [the government] have now started targeting journalists one by one and have taken another step towards despotism. …this only shows the level of moral corruption of the authorities,” the ÇGD statement read.

Published on Today's Zaman, 13 November 2015, Friday