Turkey: DI Denounces Crackdown on Human Rights and Free Press

Defend International

4 November 2016

Press Release

Turkey: DI Denounces Latest Crackdown on Human Rights and Free Press


(Oslo) – Given that President Erdogan’s crackdown on human rights has paralyzed every aspect of life, Defend International expresses solidarity with those affected, calling on the world leaders to denounce Mr. Erdogan’s move toward authoritarianism and his misuse of the emergency provisions.

Since the coup attempt in July, the Turkish authorities have sacked or suspended more than 110,000 civil servants and members of the security forces, arrested over 37,000 people and closed about 180 media outlets and publishing houses over alleged links with terrorist organisations.

In another shocking attack on freedom of expression, the Turkish police detained recently Mr. Murat Sabuncu, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper – Turkey’s oldest daily and the recipient of this year’s Right Livelihood Award – and reportedly carried out raids on residence of its executives and journalists. Detention warrants have been issued for around 14 of its executives and writers. It must be noted that Cumhuriyet’s previous editor, Mr. Can Dundar, has been sentenced to six years for allegedly publishing state secrets involving Ankara’s role in the Syrian conflict.

“President Erdogan’s crackdown on human rights is deplorable,” Dr. Widad Akreyi, Defend International co-founder, said. “The crackdown has paralyzed every arena of life, from media outlets to hospitals to education institutions to political opposition to businesses. We stand today in solidarity with tens of thousands of Turkish and Kurdish journalists, writers, lawyers, healthcare workers, higher education employees, scholars, teachers, civil society activists, politicians and others. We are grateful for their voices and well aware of their suffering.”

In addition to the crackdown on media outlets and children’s television, the Kurdish region, Bakur, has been under military attacks since May last year. Furthermore, on October 31st, Ms. Gultan Kisanak and Mr. Firat Anli, the co-mayors of the Kurdish city of Amed/Diyarbakir were arrested on “charges of membership of a terrorist organization.” They will allegedly be subject to prosecution for speeches given during the Newroz celebration in 2012. On November 3rd, the police canceled the passport of MP Ferhat Encu and detained Ms. Figen Yuksekdag, co-chair of HDP, the 3rd largest party in the parliament.

The Turkish government’s restrictions on press freedom and access to information have reached far beyond Turkey’s borders. On October 3rd, the French satellite company, Eutelsat, complied with Turkey’s request to shut the Kurdish Channel Med-Nuçe down.

“We urge Mr. Erdogan and other Turkish leaders to engage in dialogue as a way forward from the current major threats to peace and human rights. We call on the world leaders to support the voices calling for respect of fundamental freedoms in Turkey and to focus on Mr. Erdogan’s move toward authoritarianism and his misuse of the emergency provisions,” Dr. Akreyi added.

Defend International is an NGO which has as its main objective the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.


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Background information

Since the coup attempt in July, a state of emergency has been put in place in Turkey. The emergency laws have granted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration sweeping powers to take action against any political opponents and critics. As a result, over 200 journalists have been arrested as part of coup investigation, more than 30 TV stations, five news agencies, about 77 newspapers and magazines, 30 radio stations and 28 publishing houses have been shut down. Access to the internet has been blacked out for days in some cities. Turkey’s outrageous assault on freedom of expression has triggered protests, which have been largely quelled by the use of rubber pellets.

Following its crackdown on associations, political opponents and companies, the Turkish government has recently issued two new decrees under the state of emergency, by which it fired over 10,000 civil servants and members of the security forces and closed down 15 key Kurdish media outlets. The police confiscated their computers and equipment and sealed the doors to their offices.

Since July, Mr. Erdogan has expressed his willingness to reinstate the death penalty.


Photo: ©AFP