Home Page > News Item > TURKEY: Lack of media freedom evident as peaceful protests are violently suppressed

June 4, 2013

PEN International is shocked by the heavy-handed attacks on demonstrators and the widespread restriction in the media in Turkey in recent days. The excessive use of gas and water cannon has resulted in extensive injuries and is an extreme and unnecessary reaction to peaceful protest. Reports suggest several hundreds have been injured, among them journalists, and hundreds more have been arrested. The protests were initially targeting plans to build a shopping mall over Gezi Park in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, but have spread into nationwide unrest opposing the ruling Justice and Democracy Party (AKP), and in particular its leader, Prime Minister Recep Tayipp Erdogan.

Restrictions on the media have been a further cause of concern, and journalists report being physically obstructed from reporting, adding that there were instances where rubber bullets were fired directly at TV crews. According to reports, Ahmet Şik, a PEN Honorary Member who has been on trial since April 2011 on charges linked to his journalism, was seriously injured by a tear gas canister. The lack of coverage of the protests by many television stations has been denounced by protesters as another example of the control that the government has over the mainstream media.

Much coverage and reporting of events has taken place on media platforms with Prime Minister Erdogan making statements throughout recent events that further give grounds for concern. In a televised interview he criticized social media calling Twitter a ‘curse’ and an ‘extreme version of lying’, and later added that ‘To me, social media is the worst menace to society’.

Turkey already has in prison and on trial a large number of writers, academics and journalists accused under the Anti Terror Law, which has been heavily criticised for bringing into its remit people who have exercised their peaceful right to freedom of expression. In November 2012, a delegation of writers from PEN International were in Turkey calling on the Turkish government to take quick and concrete action to reverse an alarming rise in the number of writers, journalists, translators and publishers who are in prison or on trial in the country. Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent statements are, in this light, deeply troubling and suggest that more citizens could find themselves prosecuted under these laws in the aftermath of the protests.

PEN International calls on the Turkish authorities to:

• Stop the use of unnecessary and excessive force against protesters
• Ensure that there are no restraints on print and broadcast media coverage and to conduct full and impartial investigations into the attacks against journalists as they attempted to report on the events
• Provide assurances that no person arrested during these events is held in violation of their right to non-violent practice of their right to freedom of expression and association.

For more information contact Communications & Campaigns Manager Sahar Halaimzai: sahar.halaimzai@pen-international.org

Note to Editors:

For information on the PEN International’s work on promoting freedom of expression in Turkey click here.

For latest PEN report click here.