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World Press Freedom Day: In Europe, Turkey still in focus

(IFJ/IFEX) - 2 May 2012 - The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), marks World Press Freedom Day by focusing on the severe threats to press freedom in Europe, with a special focus on over 100 imprisoned journalists in Turkey .

The EFJ also marked the day by calling for EU action to support the campaign for press freedom in Hungary.

"Hungary has shown that the mobilisation of democratic forces can have some impact on the public, but our Hungarian colleagues still have a long way to go due to the unprecedented pressure of its government. Much more is needed to guarantee journalists' rights" said EFJ President Arne König. The EFJ is calling on the Council of the European Union, with support from the European Parliament and the European Commission, to take action against Hungary under Article 7 of the EU Treaty, on the grounds that deteriorating media freedom in the country constitutes a clear risk of a breach of common EU values. Under that provision, the council may suspend rights of the offending member state, including the voting rights of its representatives in the council.

"Unfortunately, in Turkey this pressure has had even less impact up to now", said König, "but our concerted work with regard to the dramatic number of journalist in prison has put Turkey high on the agenda of our unions."

As part of the EFJ's campaign for journalists in Turkey to be set free, the organisation has encouraged its affiliates to "adopt" a journalist in prison. This involves showing solidarity and support for an individual journalist until his/her release by following news on his/her case, corresponding with the journalist in jail and highlighting the case to members at national or regional level.

EFJ members in Belgium, France, the UK, Hungary, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Italy have already been linked up with journalists. The Finnish Union of Journalists and workplace-based groups of the Swedish and Norwegian union have also asked to take part in the scheme. Just last week, on 30 April, the EFJ's Italian affiliate, the Federazione Nationale della Stampa, sent an observer to the trial of their "adopted" journalist, Baha Okar, editor from Bilim ve Gelecek Magazine. Mr Okar, who has been in jail since 2010, was released at the hearing, though the charges against him still stand and the trial will continue.

More than 100 journalists are currently in jail in Turkey , and the EFJ affiliate, the Turkish Union of Journalists (TGS), is leading a Freedom Coalition for their release and for the respect of the rule of law. Still in Turkey, the EFJ is concerned by pressure and intimidation made on journalists to leave the union, which is a blatant breach of labour rights.

There will be a special discussion on press freedom in Europe at the upcoming EFJ Annual Meeting to take place this year on 15-17 June in Bergamo.

Around Europe and around the world, journalists' organisations are planning to highlight other pressing issues in their communities, countries and regions during the annual celebration of press freedom.

Pictures and information of the "adopted" journalists can be found on our Facebook page.

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