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HRW, RSF, others express concern over Turkey’s harsh crackdown after coup attempt

Independent watchdogs such as the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Freedom House and Amnesty International have expressed concern in separate statements on Monday regarding the Turkish government’s harsh crackdown on media and dissidents as part of its reprisal in response to a failed military coup attempt, calling for respect to rule of law and democracy.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) warned Turkey “against any temptation to silence critical media outlets on the pretext of punishing supposed supporters of the 16 July coup attempt.”
The RSF’s statement touched on the fact that dozens of news websites have been blocked by the Turkish government over the past two days for “national security” reasons, following last Friday’s military coup attempt that was suppressed.

The RSF cited the Turkish law, which stipulates a court’s approval following a government order to block a website. The statement named the websites, to which access is blocked, as “ABCGazete, Gazeteport, Can Erzincan, Özgür Düşünce, Haberdar, Karşı, Gri Hat, Aktif Haber, Samanyolu Haber, Meydan and Rota Haber.”

It was also reported in the RSF statement that none of the above mentioned outlets had been notified in writing as of Sunday, despite the block had already started.

The RSF statement noted that Turkey ranked 151st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

Another statement came from HRW, which said “The response of the Turkish government to an attempted coup will be a critical test of its commitment to defend democratic principles and human rights, including media freedom and respect for the rule of law.”

The statement titled “Turkey: Protect Rights, Law After Coup Attempt – Mass Arrests, Website Shutdowns Raise Grave Concerns” continued “By July 18, 2016, authorities had announced more than 7,500 arrests, including 755 judges and prosecutors, and the suspension of thousands of judges, prosecutors, and police officers. Twenty news websites have been shut down.

“While the government has the complete right to hold to account those involved in the coup, the speed and scale of the arrests, including of top judges, suggests a purge rather than a process based on any evidence,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Turkey’s citizens who took to the streets to defend democracy deserve a response that upholds the rule of law and protects media freedom.”

Freedom House issued a statement on Monday titled “Turkey: Democracy Now Best Protected by Respect for Rule of Law.”

Mark P. Lagon, the president of the Freedom House, said “The coup attempt was an appalling, unacceptable assault on Turkey’s constitutional order. Respect for due process and the rule of law are absolutely essential if Turkey is to avoid falling deeper into civil conflict. We urge the government of Turkey to unite the country behind respect for its democratic, constitutional institutions rather than respond to the attempted coup with indiscriminate settling of scores.”

The statement noted “Turkey is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2016 report, Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2016 and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2015.”

Amnesty International also issued a statement on Monday titled “Turkey: Human rights in grave danger following coup attempt and subsequent crackdown.”

“The sheer number of arrests and suspensions since Friday is alarming and we are monitoring the situation very closely. The coup attempt unleashed appalling violence and those responsible for unlawful killings and other human rights abuses must be brought to justice, but cracking down on dissent and threatening to bring back the death penalty are not justice,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

Dalhuisen continued “We urge the Turkish authorities to show restraint and respect for the rule of law as they carry out the necessary  investigations, granting fair trials to all those in detention and releasing anyone for whom they do not have concrete evidence of participating in criminal acts. A backslide on human rights is the last thing Turkey needs.”

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