Turkey: ‘State of Emergency’ is enabling measures which violate freedom of expression

Item 4 General Debate: Freedom of Expression in Turkey

Joint Oral Statement ARTICLE 19 and PEN International

19 September 2016

Delivered by Andrew Smith, ARTICLE 19

Thank you Mr. President,

ARTICLE 19 and PEN International are deeply concerned at violations of the right to freedom of expression in Turkey, enabled by measures taken under a “state of emergency” that are not justified.

We unequivocally condemn the violence and loss of life during the coup attempt on 15 July 2016, including the murder of photojournalist Mustafa Cambaz, and the perpetrators of those crimes must be held accountable.

At the same time, Turkey must cease abusing the “state of emergency” powers in place since the failed coup, to violate the right to freedom of expression.

Since the failed coup, 100 media outlets have been closed. At least 88 journalists have been arrested, bringing the total number of media workers detained in Turkey on charges related to their exercise of the right to freedom of expression to 120, primarily on terror-related charges.  These numbers exclude countless other journalists held in temporary detention. There are credible reports of torture and ill-treatment of those in police custody.

These arrests, detentions and closures of media and publishing outlets are arbitrary; they are not based on clear evidence of involvement in a crime, and the use of emergency measures in these instances are not justified by the exigencies of the situation.

Since July, the crackdown on media reporting on Kurdish issues and the conflict in South East Turkey has intensified. 17 journalists have been arrested on terror charges entirely un-related to the coup. All apart from one of these journalists are from media outlets considered pro-Kurdish.

This increases concerns that Turkey is abusing the state of emergency to limit reporting on matters in the public interest, including on human rights violations and abuses committed by state and non-state actors in South-East Turkey.

We welcome that the Turkish government has invited the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion to visit the country at the end of the year. He must be given free and full access to all individuals in the media in all parts of the country, including journalists held in custody and representatives of media outlets that have been forcibly closed.

The state of emergency must not be used to restrict freedom of expression, and Turkey must revoke its derogations from international human rights instruments safeguarding this right.

Turkey must ensure that investigations into those responsible for the coup are limited to those alleged to be directly involved in criminal activity, are based on evidence, and that due process is observed in line with international standards on the right to a fair trial.