In the following letter, Freedom House and other prominent rights groups call on President Barack Obama to express public concern regarding Turkey's increasingly hostile environment for free speech and expression.
Ten years ago, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) scored an overwhelming victory in elections for the Turkish parliament. Its triumph represented much more than a normal rotation of power between one traditional party and another. As a party—or, perhaps more accurately, a movement—with roots in moderate Islamism, the AKP stood poles apart from the secularist parties that had dominated Turkish politics for much of the previous century.
The world was outraged when a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan was shot in the head last week simply for being an ardent advocate for the right of girls to an education. Unfortunately, Malala's case is not an isolated one. In most parts of the world today, individuals and organizations working to advance social, political, and environmental justice face imminent danger as a result of their work. In the past two months alone, a 70-year-old activist in Cambodia was sentenced to 20 years in prison because he challenged the government's policy of confiscating local land for powerful corporate interests; in southern India, police used live ammunition on villagers protesting against a proposed nuclear power plant; a human rights lawyer opposing the creation of special economic development zones was shot dead in Honduras; and in the United Arab Emirates, an outspoken critic of inhumane treatment of political prisoners was assaulted in the street twice and faced government surveillance.
The number of journalists imprisoned in Turkey has nearly doubled, according to a new study published by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which noted that 95 journalists are in Turkish prisons today, up from 57 in 2011. Freedom House welcomes the report and joins the OSCE in calling on Turkey to reform its media laws, which include vague anti-terrorism provisions that have been used for years to imprison journalists for allegedly disseminating statements and propaganda from terrorist organizations.
A majority of Americans see democracy in the U.S. as weak and getting weaker, according to a national survey released by The Democracy Project, a joint initiative of Freedom House, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
The victory of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the June 2018 elections has cemented the long-term trend of democratic decline and authoritarian consolidation in Turkey. This consolidation has coincided with, and contributed to, a sharp divergence from Turkey’s traditional strategic alignment with the United States. This brief provides an overview of recent developments and looks at how U.S. foreign policy should respond to the “New Turkey.”
Turkey’s government is improperly using its leverage over 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.
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