CPJ offers the following recommendations to Turkish authorities and the international community.
To Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
- Stop filing defamation complaints against critical journalists, publicly deprecating critical journalists, and pressuring critical news outlets to tone down coverage.
- Publicly state your government’s recognition of the important role of a free press in Turkish society. Allow critical commentators to return to their jobs without government interference.
To the Turkish government
- Release all imprisoned journalists who are being held on the basis of journalistic activities, even when those activities support ideas the government finds offensive. Halt the criminal prosecution of journalists in connection with their reporting and commentary. In dozens of cases documented by CPJ, the government has detained journalists on terrorism and anti-state allegations based only on evidence of their journalistic activities.
- Halt the use of the anti-terror law against journalists. In numerous cases documented by CPJ, authorities have conflated the expression of political views the government finds offensive with outright terrorism. Such a practice contravenes Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
- End the practice of jailing journalists for prolonged periods as they await trial or a court verdict. CPJ has documented dozens of cases in which journalists have been held for many months or even years without having been convicted of a crime.
- Fundamentally and comprehensively reform all laws used routinely against the press, including provisions in the penal code and anti-terror law that criminalize newsgathering and publication of critical or opposing views. In drafting amendments to those laws, work with Turkey’s media and press freedom organizations.
- Comprehensively reform laws and regulations governing the Internet, including Law 5651, to bring them in line with international standards for freedom of expression. Thousands of websites have been blocked under Law 5651 with little public or judicial oversight.
- Enact broad constitutional reforms to protect press freedom and freedom of expression in accordance with international legal standards and Turkey’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Reject all efforts to constitutionally limit press freedom, such as those outlined in a July 2012 proposal submitted by the Justice and Development Party. The July proposal would severely restrict independent journalism on crucial matters such as national security, the judicial system, and human rights, and would contravene international standards for free expression.
To the European Union
- Urge Turkish authorities to immediately free all journalists jailed for exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
- Call on Turkish leaders to abolish all legal provisions, particularly in the penal code and the anti-terror law, that are used to unduly restrict freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and to bring them into conformity with European and international human rights standards.
- Insist that Turkey’s EU membership be dependent on respect for its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, along with its effective implementation of European Court of Human Rights rulings, especially those related to freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
- The European Parliament should closely monitor attacks against the press in Turkey and hold regular hearings on freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
To the Council of Europe
- The Council of Europe, particularly the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, should hold Turkey accountable under the European Convention on Human Rights and demand substantive changes in Turkey’s legislation and policies so that they comply with European and international human rights standards.
To the United States
- The president of the United States, the National Security Council, and the U.S. State Department must engage Turkish leaders on press freedom and freedom of expression in bilateral and multilateral meetings.
- U.S. leaders should insist on Turkey’s compliance with international standards for freedom of the press and freedom of expression as a basis for continued strategic cooperation.
- The U.S. Congress, including the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, should hold public hearings on press freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey.
(Photo by Reuters)