Freedom of expression is nonexistent in Turkey: German Foreign Ministry

PHOTO: The Local

Freedom of expression is nonexistent in Turkey, said a report published by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkish reported on Wednesday, citing German news agency dpaAFX.

The report, dated August 24 and titled “The State of Asylum and Deportation,” stated that Turkey’s judiciary is mostly dysfunctional and that fundamental rights guaranteed by its constitution have largely been undermined.

The report underlined that subscribing to certain publications and using a particular bank or messaging app are sufficient evidence for the country’s courts to convict someone of terrorism over ties to the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a coup attempt in July 2016 and labels it a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The report is significant in that the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) uses it as a reference in their decision-making process concerning asylum applications.

Last year 10,800 Turkish citizens applied for asylum in Germany, and nearly half of the requests were granted, according to the report. “It can be assumed that Turkish authorities are spying on opponents of the government abroad, including in particular the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and Gülen supporters, as well as observing the activities of associations registered in Germany,” the report said.

The outlawed PKK is a secessionist group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

Criticizing Turkish security forces’ excessive use of force in southeastern Turkey can also be considered terrorist propaganda by authorities, according to the report.

The report also said large parts of the judiciary was dysfunctional and under political influence. “Individual judges can be dismissed from their jobs or appointed to less desirable places as a punishment. Other judges can make decisions that are favorable for political discourse.”

The report also mentions recent regulations on social media and states that conventional media has synchronized itself with the government

According to a new regulation that went into effect in July, foreign social media companies with high Internet traffic will be required to appoint a representative in the country to address concerns raised by authorities over content on their platforms.

The bill also prescribes huge administrative fines for social network providers that fail to abide by provisions of the legislation in terms of content removal stemming from individuals as well as government authorities.

Companies that do not comply with the new measures could face having their bandwidth halved after 30 days by court order, and then slashed by 95 percent if they persist another 30 days.

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