Freedom House calls on US administration to engage more over Turkish press

Freedom House calls on US administration to engage more over Turkish press

Freedom House calls on US administration to engage more over Turkish press

Freedom House has deplored that the Obama administration’s criticism of the Turkish government’s recent actions has not come from high-ranking officials.

A Washington-based NGO has called on the U.S. government “to speak frankly and with seriousness about the growing threat to democracy in Turkey,” asking it to make freedom of expression the center of any relationship with Ankara.

“The U.S. government, in our view, has been too slow to realize the seriousness of the threat to Turkey’s democracy. The Obama administration’s criticism of the Turkish government’s recent action has not come from high-ranking officials.”

“They need to be more engaged in responding to a crisis of this scale,” David Kramer from Freedom House said at a press conference where the institution released its special report titled “Democracy in Crisis: Corruption, Media and Power in Turkey.”

The report stressed that the U.S. “urgently needs a policy that fits the reality of current events in Turkey. The Turkish government is improperly using its leverage over the media to limit public debate about government actions and punish journalists and media owners who dispute government claims, deepening the country’s political and social polarization, Freedom House said.

The NGO called on the Turkish government “to end its attacks on media owners and journalists.”

‘Crisis of democracy’

“What is happening in Turkey we would argue is a real crisis of democracy. As the government has become more aggressive in controlling the media, social division and polarization have increased,” Kramer said yesterday, stressing that the NGO was “very concerned that Turkey’s stability is in danger.” “This could have serious repercussions in the Middle East in Europe, frankly in the world,” Kramer said. 

He said Turkey was a major economy, an influential foreign policy player, a member of NATO, and the Council of Europe, meaning that what happens in Turkey matters not just within Turkey, but to the region and to the world. 

In November 2013, a Freedom House delegation traveled to Turkey and met with journalists, NGOs, business leaders, and senior government officials, including President Abdullah Gül, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, Culture Minister Ömer Çelik, then-EU Minister Egemen Bağış and opposition party members about the “deteriorating state of media freedom in the country.”

“Since November, events in Turkey have taken into worse. We see more journalists fired for speaking up. People like Nazlı Ilıcak and Murat Aksoy,” he said, noting that they also saw “increasing attacks on other institutions like the police and judiciary.” 

“Legislation placed for the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors under the ministry of justice is a dangerous infringement on separation of powers. The amendments to the Internet law that was proposed two weeks ago will be major step backward for freedom of expression in Turkey and a clear violation of rulings from the European Court of Human Rights on this very subject,” Kramer said. Freedom House conducts research on democracy and political freedom.

Freedom House is a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights. The special report on Turkey is not funded by the U.S. administration, but with the NGO’s own resources, Kramer said.

The report is prepared by David Kramer, current president of Freedom House and a former U.S. State Department deputy director for European affairs in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, who also served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor from March 2008 to January 2009, Susan Corke, director for Eurasia programs at Freedom House; Andrew Finkel, a journalist based in Turkey, Carla Anne Robbins, a clinical professor of national security studies at Baruch College; and Nate Schenkkan, program officer at Freedom House.