Attack on Democracy Continues in Turkey After Coup Attempt

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

When elected politicians try to subvert the democratic principles, coups are carried out by disciplined soldiers to bring democracy back on track. ~ Rakesh Raman

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of opinion and expression raised concerns Friday over the Turkish Government’s widespread measures to erode independent opinion and freedom of expression in the country.

Following a week-long official visit to Turkey, David Kaye referred to the Government’s actions as “draconian measures” that are occurring “across the board.”

“The press, individuals online, artists, opposition voices and many others face unprecedented pressure, from censorship to outright detention,” he announced and urged the Government to reverse this course “and return to protecting and promoting the rights that all people in Turkey enjoy under their Constitution and international human rights law.”

Turkey is currently facing a wide range of serious threats, particularly after the 15 July attempted coup, to which Mr. Kaye expressed sympathy for those who continue to feel its shock.

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The coup attempt in Turkey resulted in a number of deaths and injuries as well as assaults on the country’s democratic institutions.

Mr. Kaye insisted that the country must be responsible for the lives of its citizens and the continuation of its democratic freedoms. While the Government expressed to him its concerns about national security, he said “the unjustified attacks on lawyers, judges, journalists, artists, academics and activists undermine security and generate polarization and long-term instability.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan has ordered more than 100 Turkish teachers from the PakTurk schools to leave the country by the end of the week. The order came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was visiting Pakistan.

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The PakTurk schools deny the Turkish government’s allegation the network is linked to Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, currently in exile in the USA and a former ally of the ruling AK Party.

According to human rights group Amnesty, the Turkish government maintains that Fethullah Gülen was behind a failed coup attempt in July, and has since used it as a pretext to purge tens of thousands of state employees – including academics and teachers – and media organizations of suspected sympathisers and others.

“Defence of life and protection of democratic institutions must involve measures that are consistent with Turkey’s international obligations,” David Kaye said in a news release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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“Several laws in particular, such as the Anti-Terrorism Law, the Emergency Decrees, the criminalization of defamation of the President, and various Internet regulations are imposing unnecessary and disproportionate attacks on the freedom of expression, even in the context of a state of emergency,” Mr. Kaye stated.

The Special Rapporteur determined during his visit that the anti-terrorism laws are regularly being used to criminalize reporting and shut down all forms of media. He said that the situation for freedom of expression is “grave.”

“I call on the Government in the strongest possible terms to immediately release all those held in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression,” Mr. Kaye urged.

With permission from the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Kaye met with a number of people who have been detained due to their media work, an opportunity to he said was an honour.

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