The members of the International Press Institute (IPI), meeting at their 67th annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on June 23, 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria, adopted by unanimous vote a resolution calling on the next Turkish government to free imprisoned journalists, to allow the full exercise of press freedom and to restore judicial independence and the rule of law.
Voters in Turkey will head to the polls on June 24, 2018 in the first national elections since a controversial April 2017 referendum that vastly increased the powers of the country’s president, currently Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Under Erdoğan’s rule, Turkey has experienced a dramatic downward slide in press freedom. Approximately 150 journalists are currently behind bars, mostly on unfounded, politically motived anti-terror charges. Over 180 media outlets have been forcibly closed since a July 2016 coup attempt that also prompted the government to usher in emergency powers it has since used to dismiss or detain hundreds of thousands of perceived critics and opponents.
In April 2018, 17 journalists and staff members with the secular daily Cumhuriyet, including IPI members Kadri Gürsel, Murat Sabuncu and Ahmet Şık, were sentenced to prison for their critical reporting of the government following proceedings marred by flagrant violations of the right to a fair trial.
Expressing deep concern over the decline in respect for media freedom and human rights in Turkey and emphasizing Turkey’s obligations in particular under articles 6 (right to a fair trial) and 10 (right to freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights, IPI members called on whichever parties form the next Turkish government to commit to the following actions:
• Free all journalists imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression and drop all charges against them
• Promote freedom of the press, independent journalism and respect for the rule of law
• Cease using the ongoing state of emergency to justify attacks on the press
• Restore the impartiality of the judiciary and the right to a fair trial
• Take steps to repeal or reform in line with international standards laws that are currently being abused to prosecute and jail journalists, especially Turkey’s anti-terror and defamation laws
• Work to end economic pressure on independent media outlets through the manipulation of the public and private advertising markets as well as legal and tax harassment
Finally, IPI members called on Turkey’s international partners, especially its main trading partners in Europe, to press the next Turkish government to uphold its international obligations and to not remain silent in the face of serious human rights violations that, ultimately, contribute to economic and political instability in both Turkey and the wider region.