The members of the International Press Institute (IPI), meeting at their 65th Annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on March 21, 2016 in Doha, Qatar, adopted by unanimous vote a resolution calling on Turkish authorities to respect guarantees of press freedom and free expression, and to end an escalating crackdown on independent media and dissenting voices.
Turkey’s Constitution explicitly recognises the rights of press freedom and free expression. Turkey is also a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, which similarly recognises those rights. However, in practice, respect for both rights has steadily eroded over the past decade as Justice and Development Party (AKP) leaders have systematically used the power of the state to establish dominance over the media landscape and to silence their critics.
That misuse of state power has been dramatically illustrated in recent months by two developments, which are by no means isolated: the imprisonment and impending trial of two Cumhuriyet editors on terrorism and espionage charges in retaliation for their reports on allegations that Turkey’s intelligence agency was arming Islamist rebels in Syria, and the state’s seizure of opposition media outlets, including the March 2016 takeover of the Zaman media group and the Cihan News Agency.
IPI members called on authorities in Turkey to obey their oaths to uphold the country’s Constitution and to respect decisions by Turkey’s Constitutional Court upholding human rights, including the recent decision freeing the Cumhuriyet editors. They similarly called on authorities to immediately dismiss the criminal case against those editors and all other journalists targeted as a result of their work, and to free all journalists currently imprisoned for engaging in journalism.
IPI members further called for an end to authorities’ abuse of legal provisions to punish dissent and persecute government critics, particularly the misuse of anti-terrorism and insult/defamation laws, and for authorities to refrain from applying pressure against journalists to influence news coverage.
IPI members finally urged Turkey and its people not to approve any proposed changes to the country’s Constitution that would contravene Turkey’s commitments to uphold press freedom and free expression, or that would in any way abridge citizens’ right to receive the information they need to make informed decisions at the ballot box and ensure accountability by their leaders.
IPI members further noted that they remain open to engage in dialogue with Turkey’s government should it indicate a serious desire to make improvements in the free expression and press freedom situation in Turkey.