RSF urges repeal of emergency decrees, end to persecution of journalists

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In a letter sent today to a commission in the Turkish Parliament tasked with investigating human rights violations, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urged legislators to repeal all decrees issued under a state of emergency declared after an attempted coup in July on the grounds that they contravene both the country’s constitution and its international obligations.

Part of an RSF report titled “Journalism in death throes after six months of emergency,” the letter to Turkish parliamentarians also included a detailed legal analysis of the “increasingly arbitrary methods used by Turkey’s authorities against critical journalists.”

Highlighted in the RSF evaluation is the fact that a majority of the approximately 100 journalists jailed in the six months following the failed coup are being held without the start of any trial proceedings against them, most of them without being charged in an indictment. More than 80 of the journalists are behind bars because they worked for outlets affiliated with Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who was accused without evidence by the president and government of masterminding the coup attempt. Requests for their pretrial release have been denied, and petitions to the country’s highest court remain unanswered. RSF also reports that many of the imprisoned journalists are being held in strict isolation, denied access to mail and media and with extremely limited visitation rights.

According to the analysis, since the declaration of the state of emergency following the abortive coup, the press cards of at least 775 journalists have been revoked, and the assets of 54 former employees of the Zaman daily, affiliated with the Gülen movement, have been seized by the state. For those journalists who have been able to flee abroad, relatives left back in Turkey are encountering restrictions of movement, and a new emergency decree threatens to strip the journalists in exile of their Turkish nationality if they fail to return home within three months to face charges of subversive activities, attacks on the president, crimes against the government or membership in an illegal organization.

RSF goes on to report that 149 media outlets believed to have been sympathetic to the Gülen or Kurdish movements have been shuttered since the declaration of emergency rule on July 20, reducing the range of pluralism in Turkey to the pro-government media. Although 20 of the closed outlets have been permitted to resume limited operations, the majority of them are awaiting a response from the administrative courts to which they have appealed.

In addition to increased restrictions on broadcasting imposed by the media industry’s high council, Turks now face unprecedented control imposed on their access to the Internet, including the routine blocking of popular social media sites after attacks or in other emergency situations, as well as the temporary inaccessibility of a number of messaging services. The use of VPN to circumvent censorship has been limited, and all access to the Internet was cut off for several days in the country’s Southeast.

RSF concluded its assessment of the situation in Turkey by reiterating its calls made in a previous report titled “State of emergency opens way to arbitrary rule,” published in September 2016, “starting with a repeal of the unconstitutional decree-laws and the immediate release of journalists who have been imprisoned in connection with their work,” along with an end to the isolation of journalists held in Silivri Prison.

The new report can be read in its entirety at https://rsf.org/en/news/journalism-death-throes-after-six-months-emergency

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