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.
In an act of solidarity the NUJ has decided to adopt jailed journalist Ayşe Düzkan. Ayşe, is a member of the board of Disk-Is, one of the NUJ’s sister unions in Turkey and has been defending herself for the last 18 months at various court hearings. Finally she was indicted earlier this month and was sentenced to 18 months in jail. The Istanbul court jailed her and other colleagues on charges of “propagandising for a terrorist organisation”.