Muiznieks: Steps must be taken to restore freedoms immediately and state of emergency must be stopped

The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks released a memorandum about Turkey after 6 years. Muiznieks stated that the state of emergency must be stopped.

Muiznieks, in the memorandum, notes that Turkey is in a difficult context, given that it “has been facing civil war at its borders while generously hosting more than three million refugees in an exemplary fashion, as well as a failed coup attempt and innumerable deadly terrorist attacks perpetrated by many violent terrorist organizations." However, he states that all of these developments don't justify the violation of media freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey. 

Previous evaluation of the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights on media freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey was published in 2011. In the memorandum released today, it is stated that there is a “serious deterioration" regarding media freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey since 2011 and "this deterioration represents an existential threat to Turkish democracy."

In the 25-page report, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks points out the problems concerning media freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey under more than 100 items and states that the first step that must be taken is “to stop the state of emergency and reverse the numerous unacceptable infringements of freedom of expression, and in particular media freedom and academic freedom.”

The report, which is issued based on the information that Muiznieks obtained during his visit to Turkey on September 2016, points out the deterioration of media pluralism and independence, judicial decisions violating freedom of expression, safety of journalists and restrictions in news portals and social media.

The report notes that around 158 media outlets, including newspapers, television stations, radios and publishing houses,were closed after the coup attempt and 151 journalists are currently in jail and states that “neither the attempted coup, nor other terrorist threats faced by Turkey, can justify these measures.”

Democratic sphere has shrunk alarmingly”

The report, which reminds that around “4500 academics were dismissed without any due process and with no judicial remedy”, criticizes the arrest of 11 HDP MPs. Commissioner for Human Rights writes, “Judicial harassment no longer targets only media and journalism, but all sectors of Turkish society, including politicians, academics, NGOs, human rights defenders and ordinary citizens” and this fact “stifles public debate, reduces the scope of democratic discussion, and thereby increases polarisation in the country.”

Muiznieks stated that infringements of freedom of expression and media freedom cannot be eliminated as long as the state of emergency continues. 

Lack of political will”

Muiznieks stated that the main obstacle to an improvement of freedom of expression and media freedom is a “lack of political will”, which is caused by “deliberate choices” of the government. 

Arrested journalists

Arrested journalists is widely covered in the report. According to the report, “the deterioration of media freedoms and freedom of expression in Turkey, which had already reached seriously alarming levels, has intensified even further under the state of emergency declared by the Turkish government following the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016.”

Defamation has put Turkey on a very dangerous path”

The commissioner notes that “the overly wide application of the concept of terrorist propaganda and support to a terrorist organization” and “a clear overuse of defamation has put Turkey on a very dangerous path” and “urges the Turkish political leaders in the strongest possible terms to change course and start separating what is a terrorist action from criticism and dissent, and to display the responsibility and tolerance expected in a democratic society.” It is also stated that “experience has shown time and time again that it is precisely in such situations that hatred and violence, as well as terrorist organizations, thrive. Protection of human rights, of which media freedom and freedom of expression are the bedrock, is the absolute precondition to the establishment of social peace and a healthy democracy.”

Constitutional amendment

The report also criticizes the fact that recently adopted amendments to the Turkish Constitution, which are expected to be submitted to a referendum, do not addresses freedom of expression and human rights sufficiently. 

For reading the full text, click here


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