Court orders stay on changes to press card regulation aiming to make cancellation easier

The Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, has ruled for a stay of execution on controversial changes to a 2018 press card regulation that were implemented in an attempt to make the cancellation of credentials easier, Turkish Minute reported on Saturday.

The 10th Chamber of the Council of State on Friday issued the ruling in a case launched by the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), the Journalists’ Association (GC) and Turkey’s Photojournalists Association (TFMD) against the latest changes to the regulation.

According to local media, the chamber ruled by three votes to two that Turkey’s Presidential Communications Directorate, which drafted the regulation, was not authorized to determine the recipients of press cards and in which cases their cancellation was required, although it had the authority to issue them.

Stating that the regulation included “unlawful” articles that would “result in irreparable harm if implemented because they concern fundamental rights and freedoms,” the chamber ruled for a stay of execution on all the controversial changes made to the 2018 regulation, local media reports said.

On Nov. 4, 2020 the court had also suspended the execution of several of the most controversial articles of the regulation, which had been criticized by journalist associations for curbing freedom of the press in Turkey by making it easier for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to cancel press cards.

The court said in its decision that the directorate cannot cancel press cards for “ambiguous and arbitrary” reasons such as “conduct against national security or the public order” and “actions that damage the professional dignity of journalism.”

However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made changes to the regulation on May 20, in a second attempt to make card cancellations easier, prompting a lawsuit by the TGS, GC and TFMD.

Turkey’s Press Cards Commission, which is composed of journalists from a number of state-run and pro-government media outlets and newspapers, was subordinated to the presidency from the prime ministry as part of Turkey’s transition to an executive presidential system in 2018.

Since then, large numbers of journalists critical of Erdoğan and his AKP government have had their press cards revoked or their applications for renewal denied.

It is difficult for journalists to do their job without press cards in Turkey as they need them for accreditation to attend certain events, follow trials and enter the Turkish Parliament.

The Turkish government increased its crackdown on critical media outlets and journalists in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, following which dozens of journalists were jailed and more than 200 media outlets were closed down on the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

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