Istanbul, Turkey

In focus

Freedom of expression is under threat across Europe and Central Asia. In Russia, Belarus and Central Asia, years of instability, combined with rejection of so-called ‘Western values’, is manifesting in severe legislative restrictions and crackdowns on independent media and civil society. Turkey is enduring an unprecedented crackdown on journalists and civil society as the government seeks to eliminate all opposition. Within the European Union bloc, press freedom is at its most fragile since the Cold War.  Investigative journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta and Jan Kuciak in Slovakia were assassinated for their work uncovering corruption at the highest level of government. There are major concerns that those who ordered their killings will not be brought to justice. Meanwhile Italy has seen a surge of attacks against journalists, while in Hungary virtually all media has come under pro-government ownership.

Protections for freedom of expression in transitioning democracies such as Ukraine and Georgia are currently threatened by vested interests. Within the European Union security concerns are increasingly evoked to justify restrictions, and overly broad legal definitions of extremism and terrorism are censoring dissent across the region. This is particularly prevalent online, where content is blocked and individuals prosecuted for opinions expressed on social media platforms. Meanwhile, several EU countries, including Germany, the UK and France are implementing intrusive surveillance mechanisms, and pressurising social media companies to remove content without due process.

Media outlets across the Former Soviet Union and Turkey, have experienced targeted litigation with journalists facing trumped-up defamation or incitement charges as well as physical violence. Indeed continued impunity for violence against journalists has created a chilling environment leading to self-censorship and an increase in “hate speech” being recorded and witnessed against minorities, particularly LGBTI people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, is often underscored by direct and indirect censorship.

ARTICLE 19 supports independent media, civil society and activists across the region to exercise and defend the right to freedom of expression and access to information. We challenge restrictive legislation, as well as attacks and imprisonment of individuals that violate freedom of expression, and we do this through campaigns, advocacy, policy development and courts of law.  We work with NGOs, journalists, lawyers and civil society in the region to specifically challenge hate speech, particularly on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Our work

ARTICLE 19 supports independent media, civil society and activists across the region to exercise and defend the right to freedom of expression and access to information. We challenge restrictive legislation, as well as attacks and imprisonment of individuals that violate freedom of expression, and we do this through campaigns, advocacy, policy development and courts of law. We work with NGOs, journalists  and civil society  in the region  to specifically challenge hate speech, particularly on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Meet the Team

Turkey: Elif Shafak on media freedom and civil society