Publication Date: March 2024
Pages from the memorandum, CoE

“Freedom of expression is in peril in Türkiye, with journalists, human rights defenders and civil society operating in a critically hostile environment, marked by systematic pressure and legal action against them”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, releasing today a Memorandum on freedom of expression and of the media, and the situation of human rights defenders and civil society in Türkiye.

The deterioration of freedom of expression in Türkiye has reached new, deeply worrying levels, characterised by numerous blatant violations of human rights standards.  As time goes by with the authorities failing to address these violations, the damage caused to media freedom and freedom of expression in Türkiye leaves an increasingly deep mark, leading to self-censorship by journalists and independent media. The same can be said for the public in general, including the younger generation. All in all, the situation has generated an impoverished, one-sided public debate. 

“The judicial actions targeting journalists, civil society, human rights defenders and lawyers remain the most worrying manifestation of continuous and concerted pressure exerted in a deliberate attempt to silence critical voices and to prevent them from reporting on ongoing human rights violations in Türkiye”, said the Commissioner. “The authorities should remedy this highly detrimental situation and create an enabling environment for the exercise of freedom of expression and of the media and freedom of association.” 

The right to freedom of peaceful assembly has also been seriously undermined by systematic bans, heavy-handed policing, including the excessive use of force, mass arrests and the frequent use of criminal charges against demonstrators. Bans have particularly targeted events organised by or in support of LGBTI people, women and environmental human rights defenders. “The authorities should investigate all cases where excessive use of force has been used against participants of peaceful assemblies organised in recent years despite the bans. It is particularly regrettable that the International Women’s Day march in Istanbul has been banned for the last eight years.”

The Commissioner also points to the existential risk to the rule of law and to the respect for all human rights guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights posed by longstanding problems with regard to the independence and impartiality of the Turkish judiciary. 

“To bring about meaningful change, it is essential for the Turkish authorities to engage constructively with civil society, review and revise restrictive laws, free human rights defenders, journalists, activists, and others who are imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression, respect and implement the judgements of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights and ensure impartiality and independence of the judiciary”, concluded the Commissioner.

Tags: Freedom of expression Turkey Media freedom Media pluralism

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