With democracy teetering on the edge and the country accelerating towards dictatorship under the autocratic rule of President Recep Tayip Erdogan, last Saturday’s 3rd annual Solidarity with the People of Turkey(SPOT) conference in London brought together some 200 people. The purpose was to hear eye witness reports from Turkey and the Kurdish community and to plan future solidarity action aimed at calling to account the Turkish government and to challenge the complicity of European governments in their support for the Erdogan regime.
Two days after writing my last blog (‘No happy new year for them’ – 7 January 2019) which highlighted the world wide attacks on media workers and journalism, Parliament held a one hour debate in Westminster Hall on the International Protection of Journalists. Called by Tory MP John Whittingdale, one time Culture Secretary and Chair of the Culture Select Committee, speaker after speaker highlighted the plight of many journalists under threat for just doing their work and the subsequent appalling state of journalism.
The change of year has not meant a change of circumstances for the 177 journalists who, according to The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), spent New Year’s Eve in prison. Following reports from the EFJ national affiliates, 177 journalists spent New Year’s Eve in prison in Europe: 159 in Turkey; 11 in Azerbaijan; 5 in Russia; 2 in Ukraine. In Turkey, a significant number of journalists continued to be detained on charges related to alleged terrorism, while others convicted in 2018 received heavy imprisonment sentences, including life sentences. According to the EFJ no progress has been recorded concerning journalists currently serving life-imprisonment or very long imprisonment sentences and they have issued a strong call for release of all imprisoned journalists in Europe.