Turkey: ARTICLE 19 warns UN of severe deterioration in human rights

Civic Space 3 min read
ARTICLE 19

ARTICLE 19 has warned the United Nations of a severe deterioration of human rights  in Turkey, particularly in relation to freedom of expression. A joint submission for Turkey’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), made with nine other human rights organisations, has highlighted:

  • the mass imprisonment of journalists and human rights defenders following the 2016 attempted coup;
  • the erosion of the rule of law and the ineffectiveness of domestic remedies in the country, linked to the lack of independence of the judiciary;
  • the use of defamation and counterterrorism laws to silence independent voices;
  • the closure of independent media outlets; and
  • the impact of internet shutdowns and social media content removal on freedom of expression.

ARTICLE 19’s Head of Europe and Central Asia, Sarah Clarke said:

“Since the last Universal Periodic Review, President Erdogan has increased his executive powers and used them to control the judiciary, close down media outlets, imprison journalists and silence critical voices.

The situation for freedom of expression in Turkey is now critical with over 140 journalists in prison, independent media virtually non-existent and widespread self-censorship. The rule of law is compromised, with judicial independence being dismantled through the dismissal of judges and institutional reforms.

“We urge the UN to address the severe decline in freedom of expression that has dramatically taken place over the last four years in Turkey and push the Turkish government to be accountable to its people and comply with its obligations under international human rights law.”  

The UPR is a review of UN member states’ human rights records. In 2015, Turkey’s accepted 19 recommendations during the country’s second UPR. However, following the failed coup against the government in 2016, there has been a severe decline in civil liberties, with the country placed in a state-of-emergency for two years from July 2016 to July 2018. In particular, over the last four years: 

  • At least 3,673 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed and the judiciary effectively purged of anyone who is perceived as opposing the government through the exercise of freedom of expression.
  • At least 170 media outlets have been closed down over claims they spread “terrorist propaganda”. Only 21 of these have been able to reopen, some of them however being subject to major changes in their management boards.
  • Turkey has become the world’s biggest jailor of journalists with at least 140 journalists and media workers currently in prison and hundreds more on trial.

Read the submission

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Note to Editors

  • The joint submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Turkey was made by ARTICLE 19, P24, PEN International, English PEN, Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), International Press Institute (IPI), Freemuse, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), IFEX and Norsk PEN.
  • ARTICLE 19 is an international freedom of expression organisation, which campaigns for a world where all people everywhere can freely express themselves and actively engage in public life without fear of discrimination.