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Journalists' associations call for removal of accreditation ban put into effect by prime minister's office

(BIANET/IFEX) - Sultan Özer, a member of the Discipline Committee of the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) and diplomacy reporter for the daily "Günlük Evrensel", petitioned the Administrative Court of Ankara for the removal of an accreditation ban put into effect by the Prime Ministry against some journalists. She wants to be allowed to take part in a meeting between the Prime Ministry and the Council of Ministers.

Özer, who has been a press card holder for 11 years and a Prime Ministry reporter for 8 years, was not allowed to observe the Council of Ministers on 10 November 2008 on the grounds that her accreditation was cancelled.

Hasan Tüfekçi and Turan Yilmaz of the daily "Hürriyet", Abdullah Karakus of the daily "Milliyet", Fatma Çözen of Star TV and Ali Ekber Ertürk of the daily "Aksam" were also affected by the decision.

Özer thanked other journalists for their concern and described the accreditation ban as arbitrary and a form of censorship.

"The military keeps some journalists out of the (government's) Headquarters via accreditation and the Prime Minister is cancelling their accreditation because some journalists supposedly do not follow the rules," said Turgut Dedeoglu, head of TGS's Ankara branch.

"If the Constitution specifies that the system is based on democracy and the rule of law, then those who are angry at the media should still protect it nonetheless," says Dedeoglu.

"Concepts like national security or the fight against terrorism cannot change this."

"The politicians, the military and civil bureaucracy should not forget that the media too stands guard. The best answer to those publications described as bad journalism can only come from other newspapers and journalists who do not like this kind of journalism."

The TGS statement was supported by Ercan Ipekçi, TGS's President, Mustafa Özgen, term spokesperson for the Ankara Branches Platform and head of the Ankara Branch of the Petroleum-Work Union, and some branch administrators.

The Organization of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed People (MAZLUMDER) described the accreditation policy as a violation of press freedom, which is a subcategory of freedom of expression. The G9 Platform demanded an end to these acts which should not be allowed in democratic regimes.

The Turkish Journalists' Society (TGC) has called on authorities to reinstate an "all voices are tolerated" policy. The president of the Contemporary Journalists Association, Ahmet Abakay, said that these people in the Prime Ministry who decided to cancel journalists' accreditation "were not journalists . . . they were party members looking for supporters".

The Human Rights Association (IHD) has also urged the Prime Ministry to respect press freedom and cease jeopardising journalists' right to work.

According to the Prime Ministry's Press Consultant's Office, the reason for the cancellation of the accreditations of some of the journalists by the Prime Ministry was their absenteeism. Press Consultant Ahmet Arslan said that Özer had not satisfied the "attendance" condition required for being a Prime Ministry reporter.

Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan has told the newspapers whose reporters' accreditations were cancelled to send new reporters, noting that the government would not continue to work with "the ones who write false reports".

When asked by a reporter why the accreditations of the journalists who have been working as Prime Ministry reporters were cancelled, the prime minister's answer was, "If journalists write false reports, their accreditations may be cancelled. That particular media institution or group should send another reporter. We will not go on with those who publish false reports. This is our criteria. He or she will not write false reports."

Reacting to the cancellation of Özer's accreditation, Ihsan Çaralan, chief editor of "Günlük Evrensel, said that it was up to newspaper administrators to decide about how to use their reporters, not the Prime Ministry.

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