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)
Perceptions towards Freedom of Expression in Turkey
In July 2020, Freedom House, together with RIWI Corp, released a groundbreaking new report on freedom of expression and the media in Turkey. On the surface, the presence of a vibrant landscape for free expression seems contradictory, given that Turkey regularly tops global charts for the number of journalists jailed and has been ranked as Not Free since 2018 in Freedom in the World. However, what this report reveals are opportunities for expression among a dynamic population. Turkey's population is well-represented by young persons under 35, and media preferences are shifting from traditional outlets like television and radio to online platforms and social media. From these contradictions rise not only a clearer picture of the contours of expression, but also hope that this fundamental right can still be exercised.
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: Passage of Social Media Law Curtails Human Rights Online
July 30, 2020
Turkey: New Law on Bar Associations an Attack on Freedom of Association
July 28, 2020
COVID-19 and the Erosion of Human Rights
Testimony and remarks
July 23, 2020
Turkey: NGOs Call for Osman Kavala's Release Following 1,000 Days of Imprisonment
July 22, 2020
Turkey is Using Pandemic to Tighten Chokehold on Free Expression
July 20, 2020
Turkey: Büyükada Trial Verdict Lays Bare Assault on Human Rights
July 9, 2020
User Privacy or Cyber Sovereignty?