Aynur Tekin / DUVAR
Turkey's Constiutional Court (AYM) has ruled than an article guaranteeing that journalists who do not receive their overtime pay on time get an additional five percent per day that it is not paid is unconstitutional, declaring that the article puts too much of a burden on the employer.
An initial objection to the article in 2008 was rejected by the AYM, which determined that the article was there for the purpose of protecting press freedom, and opted to keep it in place.
Though the recent AYM ruling was decided with a majority vote, four members voted against the decision, including Deputy Chairman Engin Yıldırım.
“First and foremost, in most situations a newspaper employer is a major holding company or group, and economically is in a much stronger position than the journalist,” Yıldırım said of his decision to vote against ruling the article as unconstitutional.
"Journalism is a public duty through and through. A journalist is the protector of the public's right to get the news. For that reason, the court has slipped up regarding itself and the people with this decision. You cannot compare press freedom with anything. It is a freedom at the highest point. The rights given to journalists are not completely geared towards them personally but toward strengthening press freedom," said lawyer Meliha Selvi, speaking to Duvar about the court's decision.
Faruk Eren, press chairman of the DİSK labor union, drew attention to the fact that the bosses are denying the rights of their journalist employees in a de facto manner:
“The five percent late interest fee is a source of security for journalists who work overtime and who don't receive their overtime pay. At the very least, employers should refrain from this and be forced to pay journalists their overtime pay on time. But with the AYM's decision, journalists are deprived of this security,” Eren said.
According to lawyer Fikret İlkiz, the AYM's decision itself is unconstitutional:
“When you look at the field of journalism, journalists' shifts are in no way limited by a specific time. Journalists are people that are on duty informing the public 24 hours a day. For that reason their working conditions need to be comfortable, and this is not a privilege or a concession.”
Turkey Journalists' Syndicate (TGS) President Gökhan Durmuş said that decision was another instance of the rights of journalists being severed, adding that the AYM decision to strip this right away from journalists indicates that the country's legal system is not functioning properly:
“From now own, journalists will have to search for new ways to regain their rights. This can only be possible through a collective agreement and with the efforts of a union,” Durmuş said.