About Stockholm Center for Freedom
Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) is an advocacy organization that promotes the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms with a special focus on Turkey, a country with eighty million citizens that is experiencing a dramatic decline in its parliamentary democracy under its autocratic leadership.
SCF is a non-profit organization set up by a group of journalists who have been forced to live in self-exile in Sweden against the background of a massive crackdown on press freedom in Turkey, where almost 300 journalists have been jailed, (For updated list click) and close to 200 media outlets have been shuttered by a series of arbitrary decisions taken by the Turkish authorities. It is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, a country that has a strong tradition on the freedom of expression and just celebrated the 250th anniversary of the anniversary for the adoption of legal guarantees for freedom of information and a free press.
SCF is committed to being a reference source which provides a broad and accurate perspective on rights violations in Turkey, monitoring daily developments through the lens of fact-based investigative journalism, and documenting individual cases of infringement of fundamental rights and liberties.
The founders of SCF are experienced and respected journalists who managed national daily newspapers in Turkey for years before they were forced to leave. They have the expertise, human resources, and network on the ground to track events in Turkey despite serious challenges and impediments to accessing information.
SCF is prepared to expand its area of interests in the future by adding more countries to the list when resources are available but its main focus initially is Turkey, currently the worst jailer of journalists in the world. It hopes to make an impact by naming and shaming the rights violators, providing a reliable source of information on Turkey, and exposing an increasingly repressive regime in Turkey.
The mission of the Stockholm Centre for Freedom is to:
- Document violations of the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression, including but not limited to keeping track of journalists who are detained, arrested, jailed, prosecuted, and convicted on trumped up charges fabricated by the authorities.
- Monitor the transformation of the media landscape in Turkey, track changes in media outlets, investigate ownership structures, identify propaganda machines run by the government, and expose the army of internet trolls that is clandestinely funded by the government to smear critics and opponents.
- Document cases of violations of the right to free enterprise, wrongful seizures of assets, and unlawful takeover of companies, and identify cases of arbitrary prosecution and jailing of businesspeople who are not aligned with the governing party’s ideology.
- Monitor mass purges that have been undertaken by the government to create a partisan bureaucracy or nomenklatura in the civil service that is flourishing on corruption, nepotism, and lack of transparency and accountability in governance.
- Scrutinize the judiciary, monitor the regress in the rule of law, question impunity in government officials, and track cases of mass purges and/or arrests of judges and prosecutors who have rendered judgments not to the liking of the government.
- Review Turkey’s performance on the fulfillment of the commitments it has made to regional and international rights organizations to which Turkey has acceded by ratifying conventions and treaties.
- Document cases of torture and ill treatment by authorities in detention centers, prisons, or other holding areas designated for suspects and inmates. Investigate suspicious deaths in police custody or in jails and review whether an effective enquiry is carried out to find out what happened in each case.
- Follow cases in which relatives and family members of those detained and arrested are subjected to ill treatment, torture, and harassment.
- Survey hate speech and hate crime cases, especially those committed by senior officials, against vulnerable groups including but not limited to foreign nationals, non-Muslims, Alevis, Kurds, Roma people and members of the Hizmet Movement.
- Document cases of violence against women, underage marriages, and sexual abuse of minors, and assess the progress on women’s empowerment, gender equality, and women’s participation in the labor force, and review legislative and judicial procedures to identify shortcomings in the system that hinder addressing problems.
- Monitor extremism and radical movements, especially those based on religious militancy in the predominantly Sunni nation of Turkey. Track hate-mongering clerics and enablers and facilitators of radical Islamist ideologies in Turkish society.
- Keep track of the Turkish government’s clandestine operations abroad, decode the parallel networks set up with slush funds to export the ongoing witch hunt in Turkey to overseas, uncover illegal profiling and harassment of critics and dissidents among expatriate communities, and reveal unlawful intelligence operations that violate the rights of Turkish citizens abroad.
- Survey environmental problems, monitor urbanization projects, and review major infrastructure projects and government contracts to make sure they proceed with the utmost respect for environmental concerns.
SCF is directed by Abdullah Bozkurt, a veteran journalist with wide experience of Turkish politics, foreign policy, and social and economic policies. He is being assisted by a dedicated team of highly qualified individuals who have worked in the media for years. SCF also draws on experience from business and industry professionals for services such as legal advice, marketing and promotion strategies, counseling and auditing.
SCF’s daily operations in content production run by a chief editor who is responsible for ensuring the work on all the relevant fields in the mission statement above. He will coordinate separate departments that are responsible for documenting, following and investigating cases relevant to their mandates. The Secretary General manages the smooth functioning of SCF operations from logistics to financial matters. The web manager is responsible for publishing the reviewed content on the Internet.
SCF started as a group of ten people, all based in Stockholm, volunteering their time to compile crucial data on rights violations and drafting comprehensive reports.
How is SCF set to differ from other rights and monitoring bodies?
SCF is run by a very experienced team of leading journalists who have for many years worked on the ground covering breaking news and as managers running major national media outlets. They have a vast network of information resources to tap in identifying, tracking, and investigating cases of rights violations. The team is also connected closely to many media outlets so it can promote its findings and ensure wide coverage of its findings in local, regional, and international media.
Its first signature project was the compilation of the names of journalists and their family members who are either jailed or facing arrest, prosecution, and other judicial and administrative proceedings because of what they have written and said. The report, issued on January 19, 2017, documented SCF has documented individual cases of 191 journalists who are either convicted and serving time in prison or jailed in pre-trial detention. (The number has now reached to almost 300). Most fall in the latter category and the authorities have not even brought indictment against so many. It also found out that 92 journalists are wanted for an arrest but remain at large either in Turkey or abroad. The report can be reached at http://stockholmcf.org/turkeys-press-freedom-woes-worse-than-you-think/.