The activists had hoped to deliver a petition signed by more than 10,000 people calling on Turkey’s government to free imprisoned journalists, to respect media freedom and to end its crackdown on independent media, but embassy staff declined to meet with them to accept the petition.
The petition, containing names from across Austria and the German-speaking world, is part of a campaign to combat a disturbing decline in media freedom in Turkey, where some 150 journalists are in prison and 170 media outlets have been shuttered since the failed July 2016 coup.
The initiative was organised by Austrian civil society campaigners #aufstehn, the International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders, in partnership with the Initiative for Quality in Journalism, Presseclub Concordia und GPA-djp.
Nelson Carr, who oversaw the campaign on behalf of #aufstehn, said: “Solidarity with journalists in Turkey is extremely important: with their signature over 10,000 people from Austrian civil society send a strong signal to the Turkish government and create public attention for the issue.”
IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi, noting an ongoing deterioration in freedom of the press in over the last decade, commented that Turkey, “has reached a point where independent journalism is fundamentally non-existent, despite the immeasurable courage and persistence of the journalistic community in the country.”
The Austrian representative for Reporters Without Borders, Rubina Möhring, added: “With the destruction of diversity of opinion and the brutal measures against possible government critics and ‘other thinkers’, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has set the country he rules on course toward an authoritarian regime.”
Petition signatures were gathered online via FreeTurkeyJournalists.at in the weeks leading up to the April 16 referendum in Turkey on constitutional changes giving Erdogan vast new powers.
The initiative is part of IPI’s broader campaign to #FreeTurkeyJournalists, which includes a dedicated website, FreeTurkeyJournalists.com, containing pictures and individual information on journalists currently behind bars in Turkey.