Turkey has faced an unprecedented crackdown on the media and justice system following the failed coup in July 2016. Abuse of Turkey’s vaguely worded anti-terror legislation is widespread: scores of journalists, human rights defenders, opposition parliamentarians and academics are on trial facing terror charges, without clear evidence or logical charges. Many have been held for over a year in pre-trial detention. Attacks on freedom of expression are compounded by pressure on the judiciary exerted through increasing dismissals, prosecutions and arrests of judges and prosecutors. Restrictions on expression also severely undermine the public’s right to information, with Turkish courts regularly ordering media blackouts after terrorist attacks and wholesale blocking of websites. Nowhere is this felt more strongly than in the South-East of the country, where reliable information on human rights abuses is increasingly hard to access and journalists struggle to safely report news.
According to official government sources, there are no journalists in jail in Turkey – they are in fact all “terrorists”. Calls from the international community for Turkey to ensure that no one is prosecuted on the basis of their journalism have been rejected as interference in independent judicial processes. By monitoring trials, drafting expert legal opinions on cases and sharing this information with the international community, ARTICLE 19 aims to dismantle this narrative.