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Council of Europe raises alarm over threats to freedom of expression in Turkey

1 min

The Council of Europe sounded the alarm on Tuesday over the perilous state of freedom of expression in Turkey, expressing deep concerns about the risk of self-censorship among journalists in the face of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's power.

Turkey's relationship with the Council of Europe has been strained, particularly after the organization awarded its Vaclav Havel Prize to imprisoned Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala © Mena Today 

The Council of Europe sounded the alarm on Tuesday over the perilous state of freedom of expression in Turkey, expressing deep concerns about the risk of self-censorship among journalists in the face of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's power.

In a memorandum on freedom of expression and the media, Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, highlighted that journalists, human rights defenders, and civil society operate "in an extremely hostile environment marked by systematic pressure and judicial proceedings."

As one of the 46 member countries of the Council of Europe, the main human rights body on the continent, Turkey faces severe criticism for the deterioration of freedom of expression, which Mijatovic described as reaching "very worrying levels" with numerous blatant violations of fundamental freedoms.

Mijatovic noted that the damage inflicted on media freedom and freedom of expression has led to deep-seated traces, resulting in self-censorship among independent journalists and media outlets. She also highlighted ongoing and concerted pressure to silence critical voices, both from journalists and lawyers.

The Commissioner lamented the barriers to freedom of assembly, citing instances of brutal police repression, mass arrests, and criminal prosecutions against peaceful protesters. She particularly condemned the bans on protests targeting women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and environmental activists, citing the eight-year prohibition of the International Women's Day march in Istanbul as particularly regrettable.

Expressing concern over the existential threat to the rule of law due to the lack of judicial independence, Mijatovic called on Ankara to release prisoners of conscience, revise restrictive laws, and implement judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Turkey's relationship with the Council of Europe has been strained, particularly after the organization awarded its Vaclav Havel Prize to imprisoned Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala last October. 

Ankara's refusal to release Kavala has led to an infringement procedure that could result in Turkey's expulsion from the Council of Europe.

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