PEN slams restrictions on free speech for media after Gezi protests
PEN International has criticized the restrictions on free expression during and after the Gezi Park protests in Turkey, in a new report published on Friday, and called for an end to human rights violations against writers and journalists.
PEN has called on authorities in Turkey to ensure that police conduct during the protests is properly investigated and that serious efforts are undertaken to bring laws protecting freedom of expression in Turkey in line with international standards.
“PEN’s research identifies the necessity for addressing human rights violations that took place during the protests, as well as legislative and media reforms including an independent inquiry into the failure of the police to protect journalists adequately, the decriminalization of defamation and dismissal of cases brought against critics of the prime minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan], and an overturn of the new Internet law that tightens access to online information in Turkey and allows the government to track and store user information,” says the report.
PEN underlined that journalists, protesters and social media users are still facing prosecution in the aftermath of the Gezi Park crackdown.
“The report highlights some of the most pertinent matters impacting freedom of expression in Turkey today, from the pressures facing dissenting writers and journalists to the regime of online censorship ushered in by the new Internet law,” said Marian Botsford Fraser, chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International.
The association also mentioned clashes with police this week as thousands took to the streets following the tragic death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who was struck on the head with a tear gas canister, on March 11. Elvan is the eighth death linked to the Gezi protests.
“These most recent protests have served to highlight continuing issues of police impunity and to demonstrate the lack of progress that the Turkish authorities have made in recent months with regard to respecting the right to free expression and peaceful assembly,” PEN said.
The report calls on Turkish authorities to bring disciplinary and, where appropriate, legal action against any law enforcement officials found to have tortured or otherwise ill treated journalists, including by using excessive force against those attempting to carry out their duty to inform the public of ongoing events during the protests, and ensure that any individual whose rights were violated have a right to reparation including an enforceable right to compensation.
According to the report, Turkey should introduce an independent mechanism to regulate media freedom and media pluralism so that journalists are not subject to undue influence by any party or body, and to ensure that citizens in Turkey are able to access a wide range of media reflecting different views.