Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on Turkey to restore judicial independence and end the judicial harassment of journalists during Turkey’s Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 28 January.
RSF and nine other free speech organizations issued a joint a report ahead of the UPR condemning the judicial harassment and arbitrary imprisonment of journalists ever since an abortive coup attempt in July 2016. Published last November by Article 19, P24, PEN International, English PEN, Norwegian PEN, the International Press Institute, Freemuse, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and IFEX, as well as RSF, the joint report accused Turkey of using its judicial system to silence journalists.
In an attempt to demonstrate a continuing commitment to free speech and press freedom, the Turkish delegation provided the NGOs with information about the first phase of Turkey’s judicial reform, which took effect in October 2019, and its plan of action on human rights, which is being phased in through 2023.
However, the national report that Turkey submitted to the Human Rights Council did not mention the criminal code articles that restrict free speech by penalizing such offences as “insulting the president,” “denigrating the Turkish nation and its public institutions” and “insulting state agents.” Deputy foreign minister and head of European affairs Faruk Kaymakçi simply said: “No exception can be made for any citizen, not even a journalist, in cases of glorifying terrorism or inciting hatred.” He also denied that dozens of journalists have been imprisoned after political trials in recent years.
In response to Turkey’s intransigence, the representatives of several countries that are members of the Council referred to the judicial harassment of Turkish journalists and various cases of arbitrary detention.
Around 40 delegations reminded Turkey of the importance of respecting the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers, and condemned the free speech violations and abuses that have been committed in the name of combatting terrorism. A score of countries offered Turkey recommendations on press freedom.
Turkey is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index.