The Foreign Policy Centre, Article 19 and Reporters Without Borders are organising an important seminar to shine a spotlight on the challenges against free speech in Turkey.
Since the 2016 failed coup attempt, human rights activists argue the State of Emergency measures imposed by the government have been used to silence dissent and restrict any political opposition in Turkey. While issues of censorship and media oppression predate the failed coup, numbers of arrested journalists, writers and academics have soared since 2016. The recent wave of trials for journalists, writers and publishing staff in 2017 and 2018 are showing the use of increasingly severe charges such as ‘conspiring to overthrow the constitution’ and ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ with no evidence apart from their criticisms of the government in their newspaper columns or TV interviews. While there is rising consensus among the international community that the rule of law in Turkey is flawed, time is running out for men and women on trial. Hundreds of journalists and writers are being denied the right to a fair trial, many have endured pre-trial detention for more than two years under highly restrictive conditions as ‘terror suspects’. The European Court of Human Rights’ recent ruling on the cases of writers Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay confirmed that Turkey cannot continue to use the state of emergency as a pretext for violating individuals’ rights to liberty and free expression.
Given deep concerns about the politicisation and effectiveness of the judiciary and legal system in Turkey, panelists will seek to discuss how the international community should act to help address the political obstacles to free expression standards in Turkey and reinstate the rule of law.
Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House, House of Commons, London, SW1A 2LW
Figen Çalıkuşu, Mehmet Altan’s lawyer
Erol Önderoğlu, journalist and Reporters Without Borders’s representative in Turkey
Nurcan Baysal, Kurdish human rights defender and writer
Martin Whitfield MP, UK Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Georgia Nash, Programme Officer, Article 19
Chair: Stephen Twigg MP, Chair of the International Development Select Committee