The Turkish government has been silencing the media [press release] on a massive scale to prevent it from reporting on or criticizing the government’s “ruthless crackdown” on its enemies, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a 69-page report [HRW report] on Thursday. The report was prepared based on interviews with journalists, editors, lawyers, and press freedom activists, and a review of court documents relating to the prosecution and imprisonment of journalists. According to HRW, since the failed coup in July, the attack on critical journalism has “accelerated … denying Turkey’s population access to a regular flow of independent information from domestic newspapers, radio, and television stations about developments in the country.” Among other things, the report stated that Turkey was abusing the criminal justice system to prosecute and imprison journalists on false charges of terrorism, insulting of public officials and crimes against the state. HRW also documented physical attacks on journalists, interference with journalistic independence, government takeover or shutdown of private media companies, fines, and shutdown of critical television stations. HRW’s Europe and Central Asia Director, Hugh Williamson stated that:
Free and independent media help promote the free flow of ideas, opinions, and information necessary for political processes to function, and serve as a critical check on executive authorities and powerful actors linked to them. … The Turkish government and president’s systematic effort to silence media in the country is all about preventing public scrutiny. … Keeping 148 journalists and media workers in jail and closing down 169 media and publishing outlets under the state of emergency shows how Turkey is deliberately flouting basic principles of human rights and rule of law central to democracy.
Williamson urged the UN Human Rights Council, US and EU to step up the pressure on the Turkish Government to respect journalists and the freedom of the press.
The aftermath of the failed coup attempt continues as Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan [BBC profile] vowed [JURIST report] that those involved in the coup would “pay a heavy price.” Last month the European Parliament [official website] voted [JURIST report] to halt EU accession negotiations with Turkey due to the government’s “disproportionate repressive measures” after a failed coup in July. This vote is non-binding, but represents a strong message to the EU Ministers before their December meeting to discuss Turkey’s 11-year bid for membership. Also last month Turkey significantly halted the activities of 370 non-governmental organizations [JURIST report] including human rights and children’s groups to investigate the groups’ alleged terror connections. Early in November the Turkish Government arrested [JURIST report] eight pro-Kurdish political party members, including the party’s two leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, and an additional nine party members. In September Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that approximately 32,000 people have been arrested [JURIST report] and 70,000 have been questioned. In late October Turkey’s government dismissed 10,000 additional civil servants [JURIST report] and closed 15 more media outlets for their supposed connection with US-based religious leader Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey has accused of orchestrating the attempted coup in July.