New report documents trend toward restrictions on free expression during and after Gezi Park protests

NEW YORK—Turkish authorities severely restricted the right to free expression for journalists and writers during and after the Gezi Park protests in 2013, English PEN and PEN International say in a new report published today. The Gezi Park Protests: the Impact on Freedom of Expression in Turkey details numerous examples of intimidation, judicial harassment, and violence against writers, as well as a troubling trend toward self-censorship, through interviews with journalists and editors in broadcast, print, and online media; researchers at think tanks and civil society organizations who specialize in human rights work; trade unionists; members of parliament; lawyers; protesters; artists; and representatives of international social media companies.

PEN has a long history of supporting writers at risk and campaigning for the protection of free speech in Turkey. The intense and exceptional nature of the Gezi Park protests—and the response of the media and the authorities—offered a unique opportunity to examine Turkish legislation concerning freedom of expression, assembly, and the press in light of Turkey’s obligations under international human rights treaties. 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, 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.

 “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. “PEN calls 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.”

Journalists, protesters and social media users are still facing prosecution in the aftermath of the Gezi Park crackdown. There have been further clashes with police this week as thousands took to the streets following the tragic death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who was struck in the head with a tear gas canister, on March 11. His 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.


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Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director, PEN American Center
212.334.1660 x103;

Alev Yaman, Turkey Researcher & Campaigner, PEN International
(+44) (0) 773 005 0272