PEN Int’l and ARTICLE 19 draw attention to deterioration of freedom of expression, human rights in Turkey at UNHRC

International press freedom organizations PEN International and ARTICLE 19 have called the attention of the UN Human Rights Council to the relentless crackdown on freedom of expression and other human rights in Turkey since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Pen International and ARTICLE 19 have delivered a joint oral statement on the continuous deterioration of freedom of expression and other human rights in Turkey at the 35th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on 15 June 2017, as part of the Item 4 General Debate.

In their joint oral statement, PEN International and ARTICLE 19 have called the attention of the UN Human Rights Council to the relentless crackdown on freedom of expression and other human rights in Turkey since the failed coup attempt of July 2016. “The Turkish government have used the coup as a pretext to enact authoritarian policies,” said the statement.

The joint statement has continued as follow:

“As noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression following his November visit to the country, independent mainstream media have been all but silenced. Access to Wikipedia has been blocked since April. Some 1300 associations and 180 media outlets have been closed down and 145,000 public workers have been dismissed.

“Nuriye Gülmen, an academic and translator, and Semih Özakça, a school teacher, went on hunger-strike in March demanding that their jobs be reinstated. Instead of addressing their plight, the Turkish authorities arrested them last month and they remain in detention. Tomorrow marks the 100th day of their hunger-strike. Instead of teaching their students now they are facing death.

“Turkey is turning into one big prison. More than 40,000 people are languishing behind bars following the failed coup, including members of the parliamentary opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in police custody have spread while national human rights groups have recently published the names of 11 people who they said have disappeared. At least 8 people detained after the coup have committed suicide in prison.

“Turkey’s Kurdish population continues to be disproportionately affected, with arrests of Kurdish journalists and closures of pro-Kurdish media outlets and the forced replacement of elected local officials.

“Turkey’s judicial system has come under extraordinary attack since the failed coup. What judicial independence existed has been eviscerated as the courts are packed with political appointees. The removal of judges who have granted bail to journalists demonstrates the pressure judges are under to make politically motivated rulings.

“The trials of journalists detained since the coup are about to begin. Seventeen journalists, including Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, will stand trial on 19 June. Cumhuriyet staff will appear before the court on 24 July, after spending almost a year in pre-trial detention. We are profoundly concerned about the quality of justice which journalists can expect to face.

“Mr President, these statistics are more than just numbers. These are people whose lives have been shattered as the Turkish authorities continue to abuse the state of emergency to stifle criticism and silent dissent.”

Pen International and ARTICLE 19 have also urged UN Human Rights Council, its members and observer states, “to call on the Turkish authorities to immediately release all those held in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression; permit the reopening and independent operation of closed media outlets and halt executive interference with independent news organizations; uphold the independence of the judiciary. Anyone who has been victim of unlawful arrest, detention or dismissal must have an enforceable right to review and remedy; end the state of emergency.”

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 264 journalists are now in jails as of June 16, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 240 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 105 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting participants of the Gülen movement in jails.

At least 161,751 people were detained or investigated and 50,334 people were arrested in Turkey in the framework of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to statistics reported by state-run Anadolu news agency by basing on information taken from the officials from Turkey’s Justice Minsitry on June 13.

June 20, 2017

 

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