Concerns over the deteriorating state of press freedom in Turkey and its impact on upcoming Nov. 1 parliamentary elections have prompted a coalition of international free expression groups to undertake an emergency press freedom mission to the country.
From 19 to 21 October, mission participants will meet in Istanbul and Ankara with journalists, political representatives and foreign diplomats to demonstrate solidarity with their colleagues in the news media and to focus attention in Turkey and abroad on the impact the growing pressure on independent media is likely to have on the election.
The unprecedented mission will bring together representatives from seven leading international press freedom and free expression groups, including ARTICLE 19, IPI, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Index on Censorship and the Ethical Journalism Network.
The mission will conclude with a press conference at 13:00 on Oct. 21 at the offices of the Journalists Association in Turkey (TGC), at Türkocağı Cad. No: 1, Cağaloğlu, Istanbul.
Since late August, when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called a repeat of June elections after lawmakers were unable to form a government, Turkey has witnessed a series of increasingly troubling incidents targeting journalists and media. Among others, they include physical attacks on journalists and media outlets; raids on media outlets and seizures of publications; threatening rhetoric directed at journalists; and the increasing use of criminal insult and anti-terrorism laws to chill independent reporting.
Next week’s mission will focus on these incidents, as well as the ongoing imprisonment of numerous journalists in Turkey and the deportations of foreign journalists, particularly those attempting to cover deadly clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK) and Turkey’s participation in the international fight against the Islamic State group.
The mission comes as satellite and online television providers have accepted prosecutors’ demands to stop carrying the signals of broadcasters critical of the government.
“The upcoming election is likely to decide Turkey’s direction for the coming decade and its outcome will have far-reaching implications for Turkey, its neighbours, the West and the wider world,” IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said. “IPI and its partners are undertaking this emergency press freedom mission to Turkey to stand in solidarity with our colleagues under pressure, and to demand that voters be allowed to make an informed decision about their future and that the media be allowed to report freely to give voters the information they need to do so.”
The deterioration of press freedom in Turkey represents the culmination of a years-long trend documented earlier this year in an IPI Special Report on the country, “Democracy at Risk” (also available in Turkish).