68 Int’l Rights Groups Ask Turkey To Release All Journalists

A number of leading world organizations, including PEN International, Article 19 and 66 other well-known organizations expressed extreme wariness over the dismal state of freedom of expression in Turkey at a session in United Nations Human Rights Council.

Delivered by Sarah Clarke of PEN International, a statement on behalf of those organizations addressed worsening liberties in Turkey amid an unrelenting crackdown on media and freedom of expression.

Ms. Clarke noted that over 180 news outlets have been shut down under laws passed by presidential (government) decree following the imposition a state of emergency.

The statement says there are at least 148 journalists, writers and media workers in jail. With this, Turkey becomes the biggest jailer of journalists in the world.

“The Turkish authorities are abusing the state of emergency by severely restricting fundamental rights and freedoms, stifling criticism and limiting the diversity of views and opinions available in the public sphere,” the statement says.

In delivering her speech, Ms. Clarke stated that restrictions have reached new heights in the lead up to a crucial referendum on constitutional reforms, which would significantly increase executive powers.

“The Turkish authorities’ campaign has been marred by threats, arrests, and prosecutions of those who have voiced criticism of the proposed amendments,” she said in the statement.

Conducting a no campaign faces great risks as officials never hesitate to detain outspoken naysayers. Before the referendum, the need for media pluralism is more important than ever.

Therefore the organizations urge the UN Human Rights Council to call on the Turkish authorities to “guarantee equal broadcasting time for all parties and allow for the dissemination of all information to the maximum extent possible in order to ensure that voters are fully informed.”

PEN International, Article 19 and other 66 organizations also call on Turkey to “put an end to the climate of suspicion and fear by”

*Immediately releasing all those held in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression;

*Ending the prosecutions and detention of journalists simply on the basis of the content of their journalism or alleged affiliations;

*Halting executive interference with independent news organizations including in relation to editorial decisions, dismissals of journalists and editors, pressure and intimidation against critical news outlets and journalists;

*Revoke the excessively broad provisions under the state of emergency, the application of which, in practice, are incompatible with Turkey’s human rights obligations.”

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