President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been the ruling party in Turkey since 2002. After initially passing some liberalizing reforms, the AKP government showed growing contempt for political rights and civil liberties, and its authoritarian nature has been fully consolidated since a 2016 coup attempt triggered a more dramatic crackdown on perceived opponents of the leadership. Constitutional changes adopted in 2017 concentrated power in the hands of the president, and worsening electoral conditions have made it increasingly difficult for opposition parties to challenge Erdoğan’s control.
Turkey remains one of most challenging places in the European region to exercise one’s right to free speech and expression. In 2019, it maintained its status as the world’s worst jailer of professional journalists. Many others, including writers, civil society activists, artists, political figures, leaders from marginalized communities, digital rights activists, and everyday citizens face widespread persecution for criticizing the government. Freedom House works to strengthen respect for freedom of expression in Turkey in partnership with a local organization, the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA). These joint efforts seek to bolster the number of qualified, practicing lawyers who can defend citizens’ fundamental right to free expression, produce research and policy analysis, and raise greater awareness among the international community on the crisis facing free speech in Turkey.
- Strengthening Protection of Freedom of Expression in Turkey (2019-2020)
Countries in the Spotlight
Freedom in the World's Countries in the Spotlight features countries that experienced important developments in 2019 that affected their democratic trajectory, and deserve special scrutiny in 2020. In Turkey, municipal elections yielded landmark victories for the opposition, but restrictions on basic rights persisted, including repression of those speaking out against the state’s latest military incursion into northern Syria. View the full report to see the other Countries in the Spotlight.
Freedom on the Net— Turkey Country Report
Turkey is rated Not Free in Freedom on the Net, Freedom House's comprehensive study of internet freedom around the globe.
Turkey: Free Osman Kavala
May 12, 2020
As COVID-19 Threatens Turkey, Erdoğan’s Authoritarian Playbook May Undermine His Own Rule
April 27, 2020
Turkey: Stop Judicial Harassment of Human Rights Defender Nurcan Baysal
April 24, 2020
Six Countries to Watch in 2020
April 9, 2020
Turkey: Reverse the Terrorism Conviction of Human Rights Defender Mehmet Raci Bilici
April 3, 2020
In Turkish Courts, Freedom of Expression Is Still Worth Fighting For
January 16, 2020