Turkish authorities’ failure to safeguard – and, in some cases, their active steps to undermine – the right to share and receive information has led to serious deficiencies in the country’s democracy, placing its future at serious risk, a special report released today by the International Press Institute (IPI) concludes.

The report, “Democracy at Risk” (also available in Turkish), draws on information collected during numerous IPI visits to the country over the last four years, including meetings with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and other top leaders last fall during a press freedom mission conducted jointly with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The report highlights and contextualises major press freedom developments in Turkey since 2003, when Erdogan, heading the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), took power as prime minister.

It also identifies broad threats to press freedom, as well as the responses of Erdogan, Davutoglu and other officials when questioned directly about those threats.

Those threats, according to IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis, the report’s author, include economic pressure on media outlets, a toxic political climate, manipulation of the legal framework, pressure on speech online and ongoing impunity for attacks on journalists.

“Turkey has seen increased pressure on media in recent years, part of a drift toward authoritarianism that has led to a pervasive climate of self-censorship and one of the most troubling press freedom pictures in Europe…,” Ellis wrote.

“As Turkey approaches parliamentary elections in June 2015, it does so amid an overall erosion in respect for human rights, including free expression and media freedom. Unfortunately, absent a fundamental change in attitude and behaviour by those in power, the corresponding weakening of democracy, a cycle which appears to both sustain and increase itself daily, is one for which there is no immediate end in sight.”

Kadri Gursel, a columnist with Turkish daily Milliyet and the chair of IPI’s Turkish National Committee, praised the report and he pointed to the need for Turkey’s leaders to heed its recommendations.

“In this highly informative, elaborate and objective report, IPI is not only telling us why journalism in Turkey is in its current agonising state and how it has gotten there, but is also showing the ways to get out of it,” he said.

The report is being released in connection with IPI’s 2015 World Congress and 64th General Assembly in Myanmar, which runs today and tomorrow. Both Ellis and Gursel will be present at the World Congress, where they will discuss the report and its conclusions.

Read the report “Democracy at Risk“.
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