A report released on Thursday by the US-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that Turkey’s president and government have used a coup attempt on July 15 as an excuse to crack down on perceived enemies and human rights in Turkey.
In the 687-page “World Report 2017,” its 27th edition, Human Rights Watch reviewed human rights practices in more than 90 countries, including Turkey. The report covered a wide range of chronic issues, including the Turkish government’s pressure on journalists and media organizations; the dismissal of more than 100,000 civil servants including teachers, judges and prosecutors; the suspension of hundreds of nongovernmental groups; and the consolidation of government control over the courts.
According to the report, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s efforts to silence the critical media involved five main trends:
“The prosecution and jailing of journalists; takeover of media companies—including the daily Zaman newspaper—by appointing government-approved trustees and seizing assets and the closing down of media; removal of critical television stations from the main state-owned satellite distribution platform and their closure; physical attacks and threats against journalists; and government pressure on media to fire critical journalists and cancel their press accreditation. Blocking of news websites critical to the government also increased. Turkey made the highest number of requests to Twitter of any country to censor individual accounts,” the report said.
It was also stated that following the coup attempt, the government closed down more than 160 media outlets, most linked to the Gülen movement or Kurdish media.
The fact that Turkey is the worst jailer of journalists was widely criticized in the report.
“The number of journalists in pretrial detention on the basis of their writing and journalistic activities surged to 144 by mid-November, making Turkey once again a world leader in jailing journalists. Presenting no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, authorities detained many reporters and columnists employed by media outlets allegedly linked to Gülen. Among those jailed pending investigation were veteran journalists and commentators who have been prominent government critics such as Nazlı Ilıcak, Şahin Alpay, Ahmet Altan, and Mehmet Altan.”
The crackdown in Turkey is not only limited to the Gülen movement, but “also extended to the pro-Kurdish opposition party, with two leaders and other MPs arrested and placed in pretrial detention, along with many of its elected mayors, denying millions of voters their elected representatives,” according to the report.
“Blanket curfews continued for many months during security operations in Cizre and other towns and neighborhoods, impeding access for journalists and human rights investigators. Authorities demolished large areas of the majority Kurdish cities of Diyarbakır, Şırnak, Nusaybin, and Yüksekova.”
Mass arrests of Kurdish politicians are also widely covered in the report.
“In May, the government secured the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of 148 deputies, 53 of them members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) facing investigation on terrorism charges. In August, the government introduced a decree appointing trustees to take over 28 municipalities (24 of them in the southeast), removing elected mayors and council members from office. By mid-November, 53 had been dismissed and 39, including Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı, co-mayors of Diyarbakır, arrested pending investigation. In November, nine HDP members of parliament including party leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ were arrested and placed in pretrial detention.”