Western Thrace Turkish delegation at OSCE
The Western Thrace Turkish delegation, consisting of the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF) and the Western Thrace Minority University Graduates Association (WTMUGA), attended the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on 13-14 March 2023 in Vienna. ABTTF International Relations Director Melek Kırmacı Arık and WTMUGA Human Rights Expert Kerem Abdurahimoğlu represented the Turkish community in Western Thrace at the first OSCE meeting of the year titled “Media Freedom as a Central Pillar of Comprehensive Security”.
In the meeting organised by the OSCE Chairpersonship of North Macedonia, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), media freedom and the relationship between media freedom and democracy were discussed in the context of the security concept, covering political-military, economic, environmental and humanitarian aspects.
Intervening in the context of the relationship between media freedom and democracy, ABTTF noted that there is a hostile environment for human rights defenders and civil society in Greece, adding that such a situation is also included in the statements made by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). Noting that the Turkish community in Western Thrace is marginalised in Greece, ABTTF explained that the description made by Prime Minister Mitsotakis of the reason for visiting Western Thrace as national during his visit to Western Thrace in January 2023 strengthened the perception that the Turkish community poses a threat to public order and national unity of the state, and it was also indicated that this situation in the media is also reflected through hate-based news targeting the community. Stating that the media should not be a propaganda tool, ABTTF said that false news about individuals and organisations representing the Turkish community in Western Thrace cannot be handled within the framework of media freedom, citing the case against Newsbreak.gr website, which made slanderous and false information about ABTTF.
Speaking on the second day of the meeting, WTMUGA indicated that pluralism in the media does not mean suppressing the voice of the Turkish community in Western THrace and human rights defenders, and stated that in recent years, news has been made in a way that threatens the security of the representatives of the Turkish community in Western Thrace. In this context, WTMUGA noted that some websites constantly target people who are the representatives of the community, publishing the names and photos of these people and making them clear targets. Explaining that the main purpose of this strategy is to silence the representatives of the community, WTMUGA underlined that freedom of expression and media should not be misused and turned into anti-minority propaganda.