Ankara to host int’l conference on freedom of expression

Ankara to host int’l conference on freedom of expression

Ankara to host int’l conference on freedom of expression

Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland, announces the European Union as the winner of the 2012 Nobel Peace prize at a press conference in Oslo, Norway, 12 October 2012. EPA/HEIKO JUNGE

The Justice Ministry will host a joint international conference with the Council of Europe (CoE) on Feb. 5 that will focus on freedom of expression and the media in Turkey. Thorbjorn Jagland, the secretary general of the CoE, will be delivering the opening speech of the high-level conference in which he is expected to highlight concerns over the state of affairs surrounding freedom of expression in Turkey.

In addition to Jagland, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, who is also the head of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK); Haşim Kılıç, the head of the Constitutional Court; Ali Alkan, the head of the Supreme Court of Appeals; and Hüseyin Karakullukçu, the head of the Council of State, will participate in the one-day conference.

The conference comes at a time when the Turkish government has been frequently criticized by international press associations for gradual weakening of press freedom.

Late last month, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), a body under the CoE presided over by Jagland, criticized Turkey for its media freedom stature.

“The high number of journalists imprisoned, detained or prosecuted has a paralyzing effect on its media environment,” a report by PACE read, while the country was said to have “more journalists in detention than any other state in the world.”

In the latest World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders late last month, Turkey slipped a further six places, dropping to 154th out of 179 countries.

“[Turkey] is currently the world’s biggest prison for journalists, especially those who express views critical of the authorities on the Kurdish issue,” according to a statement by Reporters Without Borders.

Meanwhile, Jagland is also expected to hold bilateral meetings with President Abdullah Gül and Justice Minister Ergin before proceeding to Hatay on Feb. 6 where he will visit refugee camps near the Syrian border.

Following the closing of the conference today, Jagland and Ergin will hold a joint press conference.