Press freedom in Turkey in crisis, international press groups

A delegation of several international press freedom groups was in Turkey to evaluate the state of press freedom and the rule of law in Turkey, which they found “remains in crisis”.

The delegation was composed by members of Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), International Press Institute (IPI), PEN International, Norwegian PEN, Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Over three days the international press freedom delegation held meetings with journalists, civil society, the judiciary and the authorities to assess planned reforms and the continued crackdown facing journalists in Turkey.

The initiative was promoted by the International Press Institute (IPI).

A Judicial Reform Strategy, announced in May 2019 by the Turkish government to address flaws in the justice system, will not be credible unless it guarantees judicial independence in both law and practice and ends the persecution of journalists, the press freedom delegation said. 

The delegation added it welcomed the intention of the authorities to undertake reform. However, the delegation highlighted in meetings with officials how the press freedom environment in the country has not improved since the lifting of the State of Emergency in July 2018, how scores of journalists remain behind bars or under travel bans as a consequence of an extended, politically motivated crackdown against the media, and how a subsequent wide-ranging capture of the judiciary has progressively and severely damaged the rule of law and the public’s right to access information.

In its meeting with the Constitutional Court, the delegation said Turkey’s highest judicial body must give priority to applications regarding detained journalists and administrative measures blocking websites, including Wikipedia, which has been banned in Turkey for two-and-a-half years. The delays in these cases seriously harm the public’s fundamental right to access information. It also expressed concern over recent inconsistent rulings involving journalists.