Europe's Largest Press Meeting Started in Izmir

International Local Media Summit Started in Izmir
Europe's Largest Press Meeting Started in Izmir

The International Local Media Summit started with the General Assembly of the European Federation of Journalists. The summit, hosted by the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality and held at the Historical Coal Gas Factory, brings together journalists from 45 countries in Europe and representatives of press professional organizations from 50 cities of Turkey.

President Soyer, who made the opening speech, reacted to the bill known as the "Disinformation Law", expressing that the government increased the pressure due to the loss of power. Soyer said, “We have come to the end of the road in Turkey. "The pressure and censorship on press freedom in this country will end very soon," he said.

The International Local Media Summit, hosted by the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, organized by the Journalists' Union of Turkey (TGS) and the Izmir Journalists' Association (IGC) at the Historical Gas Factory, started with the General Assembly of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ). Izmir Metropolitan Municipality Mayor, who hosted the opening ceremony of the general assembly within the scope of the summit attended by 45 journalists from 110 European countries Tunç Soyer, Republican People's Party İzmir Deputy Murat Minister, Head of the European Union Delegation to Turkey Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, Turkish Journalists' Union (TGS) Chairman Gökhan Durmuş, European Journalists Federation President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, İzmir Journalists' Association (İGC) President Dilek Gappi, representatives of national, international and local media, academics and representatives of many non-governmental organizations attended.

"The reward for writing the truth is to wear a shirt of fire"

President in his inaugural speech Tunç Soyer“Contrary to the current atmosphere, Turkey is the country of people who are firmly committed to democracy. Despite all its shortcomings, the European Union is humanity's greatest peace project. Therefore, by our nature, we look to a common horizon with the European Union and defend democracy. Receiving news is for our societies what breathing is for our bodies. Societies that do not receive accurate and impartial news cannot breathe and as a result drown in prejudices. You, our esteemed press workers, bear the responsibility of bringing our society together with the truth. This task, which is already difficult to carry, turns into an even more difficult task in countries where there is no freedom of thought. In a country like Turkey, where freedoms are under heavy attack and freedom of the press is hit every day, the reward for writing the truth is, so to speak, wearing a shirt made of fire. We know that if our country is going to regain its freedom very soon, we owe it to the brave people who wore that shirt of fire fearlessly.

“We have come to the end of the road in Turkey”

Speaking about the draft law, which will be discussed in the Turkish Grand National Assembly and which is known as the “Disinformation Law” in the public, President Soyer said, “Obviously, the government is planning to put more pressure on the freedom of press and expression through social media while they are going to the elections. Be assured that they do this not because they are strong, but because they have lost their power. Efforts to silence the press and freedom of expression are not unique to our country. It is one of the most important tools used by authoritarian governments, examples of which we see all over the world, to maintain their power. But we have come to the end of the road in Turkey. The pressure and censorship on the freedom of the press in this country will soon end. Our hope will always grow as long as you work not for the interests of a single group, but for our people to have access to unbiased news. Turkey will turn its face to the world again on fundamental issues such as universal human rights, rule of law, freedom of expression and press.

“Izmir's European award is not a coincidence”

Stating that Izmir has an important mission in freedom of the press with its 8-year-old culture, Mayor Soyer said, “All the works carried out by the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality are nourished by this heritage, that is, Izmir's most powerful communication with the world for centuries. It is not a coincidence that Izmir was chosen as the city that best represents European values ​​by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and was deemed worthy of the European Award. It is a result of our determined stance on polyphony. For freedom of the press, which is one of the most fundamental pillars of free thought, we need a qualified workforce and the right financial models. Adapting to the changing digitalization conditions is another priority for the freedom of the press. Izmir Metropolitan Municipality has always stood by our press in resolving these issues. This stance will continue in the future," he said.

“Turkey should give importance to freedom of the press, especially during the election period”

Head of the European Union Delegation to Turkey, Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, stated that they closely follow Turkey, which is a candidate country for the EU, and said: When we look at the Copenhagen criteria, one of the most important of them is freedom of press and expression. Each year, the commission presents an evaluation report on the freedom of expression and media freedom of the candidate countries. The last one was published in October 2021. Unfortunately, a negative trend in Turkey has been highlighted in this report. Particular emphasis was placed on the alienation from democracy and the restriction of the freedom of the press. If we need a healthy public debate, Turkey should give importance to this issue, especially in line with the elections. There is still a very important information dissemination, especially through social media. This in itself creates difficulties. This situation should be supported, nurtured, but not put under pressure. As the EU in Turkey, we cooperate with local organizations. In this way, we create a legal and regulatory environment.”

Press freedom in Turkey in numbers

Speaking at the meeting about the difficulties experienced by members of the press in Turkey, TGS President Gökhan Durmuş said, “149 of our colleagues have been in prison in the last year in our country, which ranks 23th in the world press freedom rankings. 31 journalists were detained for 52 days. An investigation was launched against 60 journalists. 28 journalists were put on trial in 273 cases. The total sentence of the journalists on trial is 75 years. 57 journalists were physically attacked. It blocked access to 54 news sites and 1355 news content. RTÜK fined more than 61 million dollars. Nearly 600 press cards were cancelled. The unemployment rate in our sector is 18 percent. In such a picture, we have thousands of colleagues who do not bow to pressure, do not sell their pens, and continue their journalism activities without compromising their professional principles. Our dedication to the profession will change everything. With solidarity and union, these difficult days will pass. Turkey will be a free press, independent of the law and a democratic country,” he said.

“You spent your time in the courts instead of journalism”

Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, President of the European Federation of Journalists, said, “It is a great pleasure for us to meet with you after the pandemic. We are very happy to be in Izmir. Here we all experience the beauties of Izmir together. I was here during the trials of journalists in Turkey. There was great public support for all journalists on the streets. We have seen how much value is given to journalists here. It is really promising to see these in Turkey. You were tried as journalists in Turkey. You've wasted your time going to court instead of journalism. This is something journalists should not do. Thousands of you have been summoned to the courts over and over. You have done very successful work in your country. We know that there is still a lot of work to be done and that is why we are here.”

After the opening speeches, the meeting continued with the presentation of TGS Director journalist İpek Yezdani on “The situation of journalism in Turkey and the struggle for press freedom”.

International Press Center opens in Havagaz

Within the scope of the two-day summit, numerous panels, presentations and discussion platforms will be held in Turkey and in Izmir on the problems, general situation and development of journalism. In addition to the general assembly and the summit, the International Press Center, which was established in the Historical Havagazı Youth Campus, will be opened with the cooperation of İzmir Metropolitan Municipality and İGC this evening.

Günceleme: 13/06/2022 14:14

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