UN Deplores Crackdown on Journalists in Turkey

A busy street in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: World Bank/Simone D. McCourtie
A busy street in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: World Bank/Simone D. McCourtie

Two top media freedom experts of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) condemned Thursday the ongoing crackdown on journalists and the media launched by Turkish Government in the wake of the attempted coup.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, expressed alarm at recent measures adopted by the Turkish authorities. Dozens of journalists have been reportedly arrested and a large number of media outlets closed in the past couple of days.

“The simultaneous arrests of independent journalists and shutdowns of print and broadcast media strike a major blow against public debate and government accountability,” the experts warned. “We strongly urge the Turkish authorities to reconsider these decisions and confirm their obligations to media freedom.”

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Reports indicate that the Government ordered the closure of three news agencies, 16 TV channels, 23 radio channels, 45 papers and 15 magazines. Since the attempted coup, authorities have issued arrest warrants against 89 journalists and have already arrested several of them, blocked access to more than 20 news websites, revoked the licenses of 29 publishing houses, and cancelled a number of press accreditations.

Numerous academic institutions, schools, civil society organizations were also ordered to close down by decrees issued after the adoption of the “Statutory Decree Regarding Measures to be Taken Within Scope of State of Emergency and Regulation of Certain Institutes and Institutions” on 23 July.

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“It is quite clear that this wave of restrictions against media groups does not meet the basic international standards concerning restrictive measures even in times of emergency,” Ms. Mijatović said. “The disregard for any assurance of due process is flagrant and only contributes to the extreme levels of insecurity affecting all those working to inform people of the ongoing crisis in the country.”

“The attempted coup cannot justify such a broad attack against almost all voices, not just critical ones but analytic and journalistic,” Mr. Kaye said. “The widespread and abrupt nature of the measures, lacking even the basic elements of due process, is shocking and unprecedented in recent times in Turkey.”

“The Government’s purging of personnel and institutions of what it perceives as being dissenting and critical voices, solely on the basis of allegations of membership in the Gülen movement, clearly violates standards of international human rights law,” he noted.

Both experts expressed their continued willingness to discuss their concerns with Turkish authorities. UN Special Rapporteur Kaye will be visiting Turkey on an official visit in November, at the invitation of the Government. OSCE Representative Mijatović reiterated her Office’s assistance in improving media freedom, including a visit to the country.

RMN News

Rakesh Raman