Amnesty International has published a new report on Freedom of Expression in Turkey. Based on trial observations, the review of hundreds of criminal cases, and “interviews with civil society organizations, lawyers, academics, individuals under prosecution and public officials,” the report outlines the major legal barriers to Freedom of Expression in Turkey and makes recommendations for serious reform.
The fundamental story is a grim one:
Freedom of expression is under attack in Turkey. Hundreds of abusive criminal prosecutions are brought every year against political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and others. These prosecutions represent one of the most deeply entrenched human rights problems in Turkey today. Such cases are generally instigated against individuals whocriticize the state or who express opinions contrary to official positions on sensitive issues.While there has been progress in allowing previously taboo subjects to be discussed more freely, such as criticism of the army, discussion of the position of minorities in Turkey and whether the massacres of Armenians in 1915 constitute genocide, a number of inherently problematic laws continue to be used to protect public officials from legitimate criticism and prosecute dissenting opinions on controversial issues in Turkish politics, most notably the conflict between the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish Armed Forces and the Kurdish question more broadly. The most negative development in recent years has been the increasingly arbitrary use of anti-terrorism laws to prosecute legitimate activities including political speeches, critical writing, attendance of demonstrations and association with recognised political groups and organizations -in violation of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
We’ll publish more on the report and ways to take action later today and in coming weeks. In the meantime, you can read the full Amnesty Report, including recommendations for real reform, here. The report is available in both Turkish and English.