TLHRC Co-Chair Statement Zeroes in on Press Freedoms in Turkey
As Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and recognizing the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2, we are troubled by the intensified crackdown on press freedoms in Turkey. As Turkey hosts the G20 Summit on November 15-16 where President Obama will meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, we call upon the government of Turkey to guarantee the rights to freedom of press, access to information, and freedom of expression for all persons in Turkey.
Observers reported an escalation in state suppression of press freedoms leading up to the November 1 parliamentary elections in Turkey, where police raided media outlets, arrested and detained journalists, and assaulted individuals peacefully expressing dissenting views. Together with anti-defamation laws and anti-terrorism laws that have been used to criminalize views perceived unfavorable to the government, self-censorship has become commonplace, which has implications for Turkey’s democracy. Credible observers, including the European Commission and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), as well as civil society organizations, have raised similar concerns surrounding the hostile environment for critical voices in Turkey.
The right to freedom of expression is a central pillar of, and access to information and press critical to, democratic societies. Turkey has a legal obligation to respect and to ensure these rights under international law as provided in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Turkey has ratified.
We urge the government of Turkey to refrain from restricting media freedom, release jailed journalists, and hold accountable members of the state security forces who attacked individuals involved in the peaceful expression of dissent. Taking these steps will help ensure a society that is well informed, and thus truly free.
James P. McGovern Joseph R. Pitts