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Turkey’s Presidential Communications Directorate on Jan. 24 cancelled press cards of journalists working for opposition newspapers Birgün, Evrensel and Cumhuriyet.  

The cancellations were posted on the Communications Directorate’s website, but the authorities did not say any reasons for the decision, left-wing daily Evrensel said.

Seventeen journalists at Evrensel, including chief editor Fatih Polat, had their press cards cancelled, according to the newspaper’s report.

Journalists working at the leftist dailies BirGün and Cumhuriyet also had their press cards cancelled, according to media outlets.

Since the journalists were not officially notified, the total number of cards revoked on Jan. 24 remains unknown.

Journalists are legally allowed to work without press cards, but these cards allow reporters to access government buildings like the Parliament.

As many as 1,400 press cards have been cancelled in recent months, according to Gökhan Durmuş, the chairperson of the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS). Durmuş’s card is among those cancelled.

“My card has also been cancelled. We wanted information regarding the issue, but the Presidential Communications Directorate has only informed us that the analysis is continuing. What does that mean? How will journalists go after the news without a press card, how will they enter the Parliament? This mistake needs to be corrected as soon as possible,” Durmuş told Deutsche Welle Turkish.

According to a statement released by the TGS on Jan. 24, the Communications Directorate changed the press cards’ color from yellow to turquoise last year, and gave journalists until Jan. 23 to reapply for new cards. The directorate then denied many of those reapplications, and invalidated all yellow cards still in use, according to the statement.

Authorities urged to backtrack on ‘unlawful’ decision

The Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) chair Sibel Güneş said that almost all of the journalists working at Evrensel newspaper had their cards cancelled.

“We, as the association, demand that the reason of the cancellation of these cars is released as soon as possible. We do not know for which reason this decision was given – which was taken behind closed-doors in commission meetings. And we demand that this reason is shared with the media in a transparent way,” Güneş said, calling on authorities to backtrack on their “unlawful” decision.

International Press Institute (IPI) was one of the many organizations who slammed the press card cancellations, saying: “IPI views the development as part of the government’s ongoing targeting of Evrensel for its critical journalism and calls on the authorities to immediately revoke the decision and provide an immediate explanation.”