Turkey remains ‘not free’ in 2019 Freedom House report

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Turkey remains in the “not free” category in the “Freedom in the World 2019” report published by the Washington-based Freedom House on Monday.

Freedom House downgraded Turkey’s status from “partly free” to “not free” in last year’s report.

The report indicates that freedom of expression has been in decline over the last 13 years, citing “the explosion of criminal cases for ‘insulting the president’ in Turkey” as a striking example.

More than 20,000 investigations and 6,000 prosecutions were conducted in 2017 for that offense.

The report refers to Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered at the Saudi Consulate General in İstanbul on Oct. 2, when it draws attention to the oppression of political dissidents living abroad.

“Turkey itself, which has sought to keep Khashoggi’s murder on the front pages, has by its own account captured 104 of its citizens from 21 countries over the last two years in a global crackdown on perceived enemies of the state,” the report said, referring to Gülen movement followers who were brought back to Turkey.

Turkey is also accused of undermining critical institutions under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“In Turkey, simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections took place in June despite a two-year state of emergency that included the imprisonment of the leaders of a key opposition party and extreme curbs on freedoms of association, assembly, and expression,” the report said.

Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş participated in the elections from jail, where he has been incarcerated since November 2016.

“Although the state of emergency was lifted following the election, the authorities continued to engage in purges of state institutions and arrests of journalists, civil society members, and academics.”

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