• Joint Statement on the Deterioration of Freedom of Expression and Media Freedom in Turkey

    PEN America

    November 30, 2017


    PEN International, ARTICLE 19, and 66 organizations are deeply concerned by the continuous deterioration of freedom of expression and media freedom in Turkey following the violent and contemptible coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

    Over 180 news outlets have been shut down under laws passed by presidential decree following the imposition of a state of emergency.  There are now at least 148 writers, journalists, and media workers in prison, including Ahmet Şık, Kadri Gürsel, Ahmet and Mehmet AltanAyşe Nazlı Ilıcak, and İnan Kızılkaya, making Turkey the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The Turkish authorities are abusing the state of emergency by severely restricting fundamental rights and freedoms, stifling criticism, and limiting the diversity of views and opinions available in the public sphere.   

    Restrictions have reached new heights in the lead-up to a crucial referendum on constitutional reforms, which would significantly increase executive powers, set for April 16, 2017. The Turkish authorities’ campaign has been marred by threats, arrests, and prosecutions of those who have voiced criticism of the proposed amendments.  Several members of the opposition have been arrested on terror charges. Thousands of public employees, including hundreds of academics and opponents to the constitutional reforms, were dismissed in February. Outspoken “No” campaigners have been detained, adding to the overall climate of suspicion and fear. The rights to freedom of expression and information, essential to fair and free elections, are in jeopardy.

    In the run-up to the referendum, the need for media pluralism is more important than ever. Voters have the right to be duly informed and to be provided with comprehensive information on all views, including dissenting voices, in sufficient time. The prevailing atmosphere should be one of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. There should be no fear of reprisals.

    We urge this Council, its members, and observer states to call on the Turkish authorities to:

    • Guarantee equal broadcasting time for all parties and allow for the dissemination of all information to the maximum extent possible in order to ensure that voters are fully informed;
    • Put an end to the climate of suspicion and fear by:

    Immediately releasing all those held in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression; 

    Ending the prosecutions and detention of journalists simply on the basis of the content of their journalism or alleged affiliations;

    Halting executive interference with independent news organizations including in relation to editorial decisions, dismissals of journalists and editors, pressure and intimidation against critical news outlets and journalists;

    • Revoke the excessively broad provisions under the state of emergency, the application of which, in practice, are incompatible with Turkey’s human rights obligations.

     Supporting organizations:

    ActiveWatch – Media Monitoring Agency
    Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
    Albanian Media Institute
    Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
    ARTICLE 19
    Association of European Journalists
    Basque PEN
    Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
    Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
    Cartoonists Rights Network International
    Center for Independent Journalism – Hungary
    Croatian PEN centre
    Danish PEN
    Digital Rights Foundation
    English PEN
    European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
    European Federation of Journalists
    Finnish PEN
    Foro de Periodismo Argentino
    German PEN
    Global Editors Network
    Gulf Centre for Human Rights
    Human Rights Watch
    Icelandic PEN
    Independent Chinese PEN Center
    Independent Journalism Center – Moldova
    Index on Censorship
    Institute for Media and Society
    International Press Institute
    International Publishers Association
    Journaliste en danger
    Media Foundation for West Africa
    Media Institute of Southern Africa
    Media Watch
    Nigeria PEN Centre
    Norwegian PEN
    Pacific Islands News Association
    Pakistan Press Foundation<
    Palestine PEN
    PEN America
    PEN Austria
    PEN Canada
    PEN Català
    PEN Centre in Bosnia and Herzegovina
    PEN Centre of German-Speaking Writers Abroad<
    PEN Eritrea in exile
    PEN Esperanto
    PEN Estonia
    PEN France
    PEN International
    PEN Melbourne
    PEN Myanmar
    PEN Romania
    PEN Suisse Romand
    PEN Trieste
    Portuguese PEN Centre
    Reporters Without Borders
    Russian PEN Centre
    San Miguel PEN
    Serbian PEN Centre
    Social Media Exchange – SMEX
    South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
    South East European Network for Professionalization of Media
    Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’État Civique
    Wales PEN Cymru
    World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)

    Also see:
    Turkey Referendum: Sultan Erdogan’s Constitutional Coup

    First published in Pen America.

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