Turkey remains in the “not free” category in the “Freedom in the World 2020” report published by the Washington-based Freedom House on Wednesday.
Freedom House kept Turkey in the “not free” category to which it was downgraded from the “partly free” status in the 2018 report.
The report highlighted ongoing prosecutions and harassment campaigns against opposition politicians and prominent members of civil society, including the continuing imprisonment of Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the Kurdish-oriented Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as well as the sentencing of Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the İstanbul chair of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and spreading terrorist propaganda.
Also pointed out in the report was Turkey’s October military offensive into northern Syria, which resulted in a social media crackdown targeting individuals making critical comments about the operation.
The report noted a slight improvement in terms of political pluralism and participation due to opposition victories in key municipal elections, despite politicized interventions by electoral authorities, increasing the country’s score under the question “Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?”
Most of the other scores remained the same as last year, especially in the sections related to civil liberties and the rule of law, where the report underlined the ongoing absence of an independent and free media, academic freedoms, freedom to express political views without fear of retribution, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, an independent judiciary and respect for due process.
The report also highlighted that Kurds, alleged members of the Gülen movement and leftists in detention continued to be exposed to torture at the hands of authorities, that allegations went uninvestigated by prosecutors and that the Turkish government resisted the publication of a European Committee for the Prevention of Torture report on its detention practices.
Turkey accuses the Gülen movement of staging a 2016 failed coup although the movement denies any involvement. In the wake of the abortive putsch, the government unleashed a massive crackdown impacting all segments of society.
An introduction to the report titled “A Leaderless Struggle for Democracy” said democracy and pluralism are under assault around the world as “dictators are toiling to stamp out the last vestiges of domestic dissent … and freely elected leaders are narrowing their concerns to a blinkered interpretation of the national interest.”