Call on Turkey to End Media Censorship

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Sponsor: The Literacy Site

The Turkish government imprisons more journalists than any other nation. Call for an end to this attack on human rights!


Freedom of speech is under attack in Turkey. Using a combination of ambiguous and antiquated laws to silence media critical of the government in Ankara, journalists are imprisoned as terrorists, and their work dismissed as enemy propaganda. Those fortunate enough to avoid incarceration still face the threat of legal repercussions for publishing dissenting opinions or critical analysis.

Consequently, an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship prevails among Turkey's journalists. In one prominent case, authorities jailed Soner Yalçin, owner of the critical Oda TV, and several of his colleagues for two years before they were released pending trial.

In 2013 when huge protests erupted in Istanbul against the destruction of Gezi Park, a prominent news channel was broadcasting a nature documentary about penguins rather than covering the protests. Journalists lost their jobs for displeasing the authorities. Critical media outlets were taken over and their editorial line changed to a more compliant one1.

Now, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its parliamentary ally, the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), have passed a social media amendment to Turkey’s Internet Act, despite overwhelming criticism from human rights and free speech advocates2.

Turkey's internet legislation requires sites with more than a million daily users to appoint a local representative to enforce court orders to remove content. The new rules also impose heavy fines, ad bans and a squeeze on bandwidth if social media companies fail to meet deadlines to comply in undermining civil liberties3.

Social networks will be obliged to turn over user data, including for anonymous accounts, to authorities if criminal cases are launched3. With all that user data now stored in Turkey, it won't be hard for the government to access it.

More than 120 journalists and other media workers are now imprisoned in Turkey, and thousands more are unemployed following the closure of 156 media outlets1. The people of Turkey fear imprisonment for criticizing authorities, newspaper columns and TV news shows contain little vocal dissent nor strongly diverse views. Now, social media, once an effective means of grassroots communication and organization, is becoming a weapon of the government.

It's time to take action! Sign the petition below and demand an end to media censorship in Turkey

More on this issue:

  1. Amnesty International (2021), "Turkey: Journalism is Not a Crime."
  2. Sevan Araz , Eliza Campbell, Middle East Institute (11 August 2020), "Censorship, streamlined: Turkey’s social media law and the future of free speech online in the Middle East."
  3. Ayla Jean Yackley (29 March 2021), "Turkey's social media law: A cautionary tale."
  4. Özgür Öğret, Committee to Protect Journalists (18 March 2021) "Turkish social media law consolidates news censorship under 'right to be forgotten'."
  5. Andrew O’Donohue, Max Hoffman, and Alan Makovsky, Center for American Progress (10 June 2020) "Turkey's Changing Media Landscape."
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The Petition:

Dear Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:

As a regional model for democracy, your government should neither condone nor facilitate the suppression of free expression.

The world watched as your government imprisoned Soner Yalçin and several of his colleagues in February 2011, adding to the growing list of incarcerated journalists in Turkey's prisons. Then, in 2013 when huge protests erupted in Istanbul against the destruction of Gezi Park, a prominent news channel was broadcasting a nature documentary about penguins rather than covering the protests. Journalists lost their jobs for displeasing the authorities. Critical media outlets were taken over and their editorial line changed to a more compliant one.

Now, through a hastily passed amendment to your country's Internet Act, social media feeds are being bent to the government's favor.

The time has come to reverse course, protect journalists, even those who disagree with your policies, and relinquish control of the internet to the people.

Turkey faces legitimate threats to law and order, but this must not be used as a pretext for censorship. It is a false dichotomy that suggests society must trade civil liberties for physical security.

I demand you accede to the wishes of your constituents, of the international community, and of a free and open society. Rescind the social media amendment to Turkey's Internet Act, release journalists from prison, and truly take a stand for the liberation of your citizens.

Sincerely,

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Signatures: