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KEY HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN TURKEY SINCE THE SO-CALLED COUP ATTEMPT

Following the so-called coup attempt on the 15th of July 2016, the Turkish government under the authoritarian leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken a wave of oppressive actions against not only the alleged coup plotters but also those that are perceived as critics of the regime. Currently, as part of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, more than 130,000 people including judges, academics, teachers, journalists, police and military officers, and other public servants have been dismissed from their jobs. In correlation, more than 217,000 have been detained and 160,000 have been arrested. Amnesty International reports that detainees were “being held arbitrarily” with “no evidence establishing reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior” and that “only a tiny minority of them were accused of taking part in the actual events of the attempted coup”.

Amid the massive crackdown of hundreds of thousands of dissidents, human rights organizations and the U.N. Human Rights Council have noted that human rights are violated on a large scale by the Turkish government. Arbitrary killings, suspicious deaths of people in custody, forced disappearances, tortures, ill-treatments, injustice, and threats – mostly against the followers of the Gulen Movement, Kurds, and the Leftists – have been reported widespread during this large-scale witch-hunt.

As people continue to be arrested and many more tortured and abducted, the present brief of Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST) highlights some of the key human rights concerns that have taken place in Turkey during this on-going period.

●  UNPRECEDENTED SCALE OF DISMISSALS: 

More than 130,000 public servants, with their names attached in lists to emergency orders, were dismissed by emergency decrees. These public servants included over 4,463 judges and prosecutors, 6,021 academics, 6,000 health-care professionals, 33,500 teachers, and 44,500 police and military officers. Not only were people dismissed arbitrarily but also banned permanently from working in the public sector – many were even banned to practice their profession.

  • COLLAPSE OF JUDICIARY SYSTEM:

With approximately 4,463 judges and prosecutors (including two judges from the Turkey’s highest court) dismissed permanently, over one-fifth of Turkey’s judiciary has been removed. Of those dismissed, at least 2,200 were jailed with their assets frozen due to their alleged links to the Gulen movement. Consequently, the climate of fear paralyzed the judges and prosecutors who still have their positions. The fear combined with the heavy government influence in the court system led to the collapse of the judiciary system and the deterioration of human rights in the country. As a result, Turkey ranked 109 out of 126 countries in 2019 on the rule of law index of the World Justice Project.

  • VICTIMIZATION OF LAWYERS:

Lawyers are among the many groups affected by the post-coup crackdown in Turkey. They were unlawfully associated with their clients’ alleged crimes. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that many lawyers were targeted with criminal investigations with little or no evidence. According to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, over 1,500 lawyers were persecuted over the past three years including 14 lawyers who were presidents of provincial bar associations – of those persecuted lawyers, one third remained imprisoned before and during their trials, and 274 were convicted of membership of armed terrorist organizations and sentenced to long prison sentences. Furthermore, approximately 34 bar associations were shut down by presidential decree with alleged affiliations to terrorist organizations.

  • PERSECUTION OF ACADEMICS:

Following the coup attempt, 3,003 private schools and 15 universities linked to the Gülen movement were closed by a presidential decree. Eventually resulting in the displacement of over 60,000 students across the country. Over 8,500 academics reportedly lost their jobs either due to direct dismissals or university closures since September 2016 – and many of them were imprisoned. Large-scale dismissals of academics and teachers significantly damaged the education sector thus diminished the right to education.

  • BOOKS DESTROYED:

Turkey’s education minister Ziya Selçuk announced last week that 301,878 books had been destroyed as the government cracks down on anything linked to Fethullah Gülen. Turkish newspaper BirGün reported that 1.8m textbooks had been destroyed and reprinted for containing the “objectionable” word Pennsylvania, which is where Gülen lives.

  • THE MEDIA PURGE FOLLOWING THE ATTEMPTED COUP: 

In the aftermath of the failed coup, the government closed down 200 media outlets – including 53 newspapers, 37 radio stations, 34 TV channels, 29 publishing houses, 20 magazines, and six news agencies – with accused links to the Gulen movement, Kurdish opposition, or Leftists groups. Consequently, a total of 2,308 media workers and journalists have lost their jobs. The government canceled hundreds of press accreditations and revoked passports of an unknown number of journalists and their family members to ban them from traveling abroad. In addition, the government imprisoned a record-breaking number of journalists in the wake of the coup attempt – with that, Turkey became the world’s largest prison for journalists. The Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) reported that at least 126 journalists and media workers were in prison in Turkey as of October 2019 – among them, many were put in long solitary confinement. 

The absence of freedom of expression is not only a recurring problem for journalists but for citizens as well. In 2018, the Ministry of Interior reported that more than 7,000 individuals were detained for their social media posts after investigating 631,233 digital materials. In relation to the censorships and content restrictions in the country, Wikipedia has been blocked in Turkey since April of 2017. Currently, out of the 180 countries, Turkey ranks 157th on the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders and is listed among ‘not free’ countries by the Freedom House.

  • CRACKDOWN ON HEALTH CARE SECTOR:

Turkish government has shut down 14 hospitals and 36 medical centers after the coup attempt on the pretext of alleged ties to the Gülen movement. Therefore, an estimated 21,000 health care professionals were laid off – including doctors, academics, nurses, midwives, and other hospital staff. Of those, 5,261 are medical doctors and academics who specialize in the medical sciences. The figures of how many health care professionals have been detained, arrested or currently in prison are estimated in the thousands. Given the longstanding issue of hospital and staff shortages in the country, the dismissals of health care professionals and the closure of hospitals left many patients in despair of medical care.

  • PRISON CONDITIONS:

With the persecution of tens of thousands of critics, the current population in Turkish prisons is 4-5 times higher than the normal capacity – it has increased from 171,267 inmates in 2015 to 260,144 in 2018. Given the capacity of 211,766, inmates are forced to remain in overcrowded cells. In order to free up space for more political prisoners, the government released nearly 34,000 convicts from prisons. The inadequate provision of health care to prisoners also remains a serious problem. Officially reported by the Ministry of Justice Prison and Correctional Facilities, there were 271 doctors serving nearly a quarter-million of the prison population – of whom, only eight were full-time. Insufficient access to freshwater, proper heating, ventilation, and lighting are other concerns for prison conditions. There are 62,669 political prisoners, 4,000 of them being women and 780 of them being children.

  • TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT:

Despite the government’s zero-tolerance claim for torture policy, human rights groups have reported widespread and systematic use of torture and ill-treatment in police custody following the coup-attempt – including severe beatings, threats of sexual assault and actual sexual assault, electric shocks, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions, long solitary confinement, and depriving of food and water. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated acts of torture and ill-treatment aimed “at extracting confessions or forcing detainees to denounce other Individuals” in its report on Turkey in 2017. The Human Rights Association (HRA) reported that the number of incidents where prisoners were subjected to torture and ill-treatment in detention centers and prisons was 2,178 in 2016, 2,415 in 2017, and 1,505 in 2018. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported a total of 126 suspicious deaths and suicides since the coup attempt – most of those occurred in detention centers and prisons, seemingly a direct result of torture and ill-treatment.

  • ABDUCTIONS AND ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES:

In the aftermath of the coup attempt, forced disappearances made a comeback in Turkey. Opposing politicians and respected human rights groups claimed at least 128 abductions or possible enforced disappearances of individuals. Most of the victims were identified as dismissed public servants with alleged ties to the Gulen movement or critics of the government. Allegedly, victims were abducted outside detention facilities and illegally questioned and tortured by Turkey’s intelligence agency. Moreover, Turkey’s intelligence agency reportedly abducted over more than 100 alleged Gulen affiliates from 18 countries – individuals often deported illegally – against the universal conventions – by cooperative governments without due process.

  • WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN PRISON:

The prison conditions for women and children are exceedingly alarming. According to the Justice Ministry, as of 2017, nearly 10,000 women and 3,000 children under 18 are in Turkey’s prisons. The inhumane prison conditions also hold weight in women prisons. They face additional issues of the male security staff frequently obstructing their privacy during hospital visits, oftentimes leading to an incomplete examination.  Among the prisoners, there are more than 30 pregnant women or women who just gave birth and 780 children under 6 years old imprisoned along with their mothers – including 149 infants under 1-year-old. Pregnant women are forced to stay with other inmates in overcrowded cells, also denied access to proper prenatal care – posing serious risks to their well-being. Likewise, mothers with children are also forced to share a cell with inmates.

Even when prison authorities are willing to let the child see a doctor, they do not allow mothers to accompany them. Children have to sleep in the same bed with their mothers and are not assigned a cradle or a separate bed.

The state pays $2 a day per prisoner for food. Since children are not technically incarcerated, they are not allotted any daily food rations and share their mother’s meals.

More than %80 of children in jail with their mothers do not receive any education.

Only %18 receive kindergarten or nursery services, but even then, there is a shortage of educational materials.

  • RESTRICTIONS ON RIGHT TO TRAVEL:

Another unlawful activity being pursued during this period is revoking the passports of government critics with perceived affiliations to the Gulen movement, Kurdish opposition, Leftists groups and their family members. On this ground, the Turkish government put restrictions on approximately 155,000 passports, reported by the SCF. Since their passports are restricted, many people, with the fear of persecution, use smuggler routes to flee from the country. Unfortunately, many died in the Evros River and the Aegean Sea. Turkey revoking its citizens’ passports also causes travel struggles for those across the world.

  • SEIZURE OF DISSIDENTS’ ASSETS:

The Turkish government abuses laws to seize assets of its critics. As of March 2018, the government had seized the assets of approximately 1,124 businesses and 127 individuals. According to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund of Turkey, the net worth of the seized assets is an estimated $32.24 billion since the 2016 coup attempt. Moreover, in most cases, the government freezes the assets of those on trial, financially crippling them and their families.

SOURCES

  1. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/07/turkey-independent-monitors-must-be-allowed-to-access-detainees-amid-torture-allegations/ https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/turkey/report-turkey/
  2. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/turkey/

          https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/TR/2018-03-19_Second_OHCHR_Turkey_Report.pdf

  1. https://turkeypurge.com/turkey-jails-2431-judges-prosecutors-dismisses-4424-to-date-top-court
  2. https://worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/documents/ROLI-2019-Reduced.pdf
  3. https://silencedturkey.org/lawyers-on-trial-abusive-prosecutions-and-erosion-of-fair-trial-rights-in-turkey-2

         https://arrestedlawyers.org/2019/09/01/new-report-mass-prosecution-of-lawyers-in-turkey/

  1. http://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/AcademicsAtRisk.pdf
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/aug/06/turkish-government-destroys-more-than-300000-books
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/11/brothers-critical-turkish-regime-arrested-after-tv-programme

         https://tr.euronews.com/2019/07/12/verilerle-15-temmuz-sonras-ve-ohal-sureci

  1. https://expressioninterrupted.com/freedom-of-expression-and-the-press-in-turkey-211/
  2. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/turkey/
  3. http://www.tuik.gov.tr/PreHaberBultenleri.do?id=27610

          https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/turkey-coup-attempt-latest-releases-almost-34000-prisoners-in-amnesty-amid-international-alarm-over-a7221451.html

  1. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/turkey/
  2. https://www.ihd.org.tr/sample-page-2/
  1. https://stockholmcf.org/suspicious-deaths-and-suicides-in-turkey-updated-list/
  2. https://correctiv.org/en/top-stories-en/2018/12/06/black-sites/
  3. http://www.tuik.gov.tr/PreHaberBultenleri.do?id=27610

         https://7dnews.com/news/inmates-facing-poor-living-conditions-and-death-in-turkish-prisons

  1. https://stockholmcf.org/turkeys-dismissed-academics-want-their-passports-back-after-state-of-emergency-lifted/
  2. https://twitter.com/platformpj/status/1234421262052732928/photo/1

         http://www.platformpj.org/report-the-erosion-of-property-rights-in-turkey/

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Democracy Index of Turkey according to Freedom House

Democracy Index of Turkey according to Freedom House

 

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Democracy in Crisis

Democracy in Crisis

 

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Severity of Human Rights Violations in Turkey & Support to Turkish Migrants and Refugees

Since the attempted coup of July 15, 2016, the government of Turkey has been taking strict measures to silence dissidents in other countries from various ideologies recently. One of these opposition groups, the Gulen Movement (a.k.a “Hizmet Movement”, meaning service in Turkish), has been the main target since 2013. The Gulen Movement is a faith-based non-political, cultural and educational movement. The Movement is composed of a cluster of religious, educational and social organizations inspired by Fethullah Gulen.

After the July 15 failed coup attempt, the Turkish government accused Fethullah Gulen and his sympathizers for having a connection with the failed coup. Gulen has repeatedly dismissed any involvement in the coup attempt. Foreign intelligence units such as Germany’s BND Foreign Intelligence Agency’s chief, EU intelligence-sharing unit (Intern), UK Parliament and U.S. House Intel Chair have all noted that there is no evidence that shows Gulen’s involvement. Nonetheless, Gulen spoke to global media outlets right after the coup attempt and called for an open international investigation to find out who was behind the attempt.

Yet, the Turkish government chose to declare state of emergency, which still continues, to purge thousands of people. Alleged supporters of the Movement in Turkey have been dealing with arrest, imprisonment, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, confiscation and passport seizure. After the failed coup, more than 130,000 people have been arbitrarily detained and more than 60,000 people have been arrested. Most of them are from the elite part of the society and are all well-educated individuals with different backgrounds such as doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, engineers and so on. The striking point is that most were imprisoned with no compelling evidence of any criminal activity. Nonetheless, there are 17,000 women in jail and 1914 children, where 688 are babies under age of six. There have also been several cases where women who just gave birth have been put in prison with their few days old babies. Moreover, more than 4,400 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed. The government has also seized 3,003 schools, dormitories, and universities. The government has also confiscated more than 800 companies worth more than $10 billion.

All independent media in Turkey have been shut down and confiscated by the government. Turkey is the leading country to imprison most journalists. Turkey has arrested 319 journalists since the coup. A lot of people are arrested for talking against government’s policies. Many students get imprisoned for their critical tweets. 70 thousand students are currently in jail in Turkey.

People are also arrested for having downloaded an encrypted messaging phone application called ByLock. The government believes coup plotters used this application. The Turkish Intelligence Organization (MIT) has handed over a list of people who have allegedly downloaded the application. People who are alleged of downloading the application have been imprisoned. Prof. Izzet Özgenç, who is one of the founders of the Turkish Penal Code, emphasized that the Bylock arrests made without revealing any evidence are unlawful. Recently, Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that close to 11 thousand people have been mistakenly investigated for use of ByLock. Turkey has also put the Amnesty International’s Turkey head, Taner Kiliç in jail for having downloaded block. While Kiliç claims that he has never downloaded the application, he is facing imprisonment for up to 15 years.

International human rights organizations have condemned and reported the human rights violations occurring in Turkey. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) announced Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the winner of ‘Most Outrageous Use of Terror Laws Against the Press’ and ‘Most Thin-skinned’ awards. A new report released by the independent, non-profit and non-partisan watchdog organization Freedom House concluded that democratic principles such as election integrity and freedom of the press, political and civil rights have severely downgraded in Turkey that is no longer ‘a free country’. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in its recent “World Report 2018” that innocent people are imprisoned with no substantial evidence, inalienable rights have been taken away, and that there are more than 2,200 cases of torture and ill-treatment. Hugh Williamson, Europe, and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch said that “everywhere you look, checks and balances that protect human rights and rule of law in Turkey are being eroded”.

Due to increasingly severe human rights violations in Turkey, families have chosen to leave their country to seek safe haven. Many families have sought to enter Europe to seek asylum due to geographical proximity. However, there are also thousands of people who have also successfully reached and sought asylum in the United States. Unfortunately not everyone successfully reaches Europe. On November 21, 2017, Greek media reported that Greek authorities have found bodies of five members of the Maden family, including three children, a short time ago on the Greek Island of Lesvos. The father, Huseyin Maden, and mother, Nur Maden, were allegedly linked to the Gulen Movement and was forced to flee due to arrest warrant issued out on their names. The drowning has sparked outrage over an ongoing political purge.

Regrettably, Turkish government’s actions against the Gulen Movement are not limited to Turkish borders but are also extraterritorial. There are many examples of abductions and physical violence incidents in several countries as well as threats by pro-government people referring to the supporters abroad. Recently some Turkish teachers and principles who worked at schools funded by the Gulen Movement in Malaysia, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan have been abducted, and in some cases illegally deported back to Turkey.

Families who have successfully reached the United States by escaping the oppression of the Turkish government are now facing new challenges. Most of the families have left everything behind in Turkey; jobs, houses, education, relatives and the Turkish government have blocked their bank accounts. Some families were able to only bring a single luggage.

These families are now in need of shelter, financial support, and acceptance of their asylum applications. You could help by personally providing donations to these individuals, or donate through human rights organizations like Embrace Relief or Advocates of Silenced Turkey, who focuses on these Turkish nationals. You could also help with helping them attain legal help and cover legal fees for their asylum applications, with their education fees. Some other ways you can help is by sending support letters regarding the persecution of these Gulen sympathizers to relevant bodies such as the State Department, embassies and the European Court of Human Rights. You can also create awareness using social media and encourage other human rights and humanitarian aid organizations to create campaigns on behalf of these individuals. Given their circumstance, we hope that you can help these people through your support. Every bit of help will aggregate to make a big difference.


Download as a PDF File: AST_1-25-2018_SEVERITY OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN TURKEY & SUPPORT TO TURKISH MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES_P9

 

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The Freedom House concludes Turkey is no more a free country. What is next?

The Freedom House concludes Turkey is no more a free country. What is next?

A new report released by the independent, non-profit and non-partisan watchdog organization Freedom House concluded that democratic principles such as election integrity and freedom of the press, political and civil rights have severely downgraded in Turkey that is no longer ‘a free country.’ The study added that Turkey’s status declined from Partly Free to Not Free due to a deeply flawed constitutional referendum that centralized power in the presidency, the mass replacement of elected mayors with government appointees, arbitrary prosecutions of rights activists and other perceived enemies of the state, and continued purges of state employees, all of which have left citizens hesitant to express their views on sensitive topics.

The Freedom House has been publishing annual reports since 1973 for assessing the condition of political rights and civil liberties around the world.

It has been a great source for scholars and academics since then. Their methodology is very strong and reliable. Their ranking provides a snapshot of the world and political circumstances in each state. It has always been interpreted seriously by international organizations and financial institutions as well.

The report noted that Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan broadened and intensified the crackdown on his perceived opponents that began after a failed 2016 coup attempt. In addition to its dire consequences for detained Turkish citizens, shuttered media outlets, and seized businesses, the chaotic purge has become intertwined with an offensive against the Kurdish minority, which in turn has fueled Turkey’s diplomatic and military interventions in neighboring Syria and Iraq.

According to Freedom House, which analyzed data from 195 countries over the 2017 calendar year, Turkey’s passage over the threshold from Partly Free to Not Free is the culmination of a long and accelerating slide in Freedom in the World.

‘The country’s score has been in free fall since 2014 due to an escalating series of assaults on the press, social media users, protesters, political parties, the judiciary, and the electoral system, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fights to impose personalized control over the state and society in a deteriorating domestic and regional security environment. Erdoğan has pushed out his rivals and former allies within the ruling party, reshaped media ownership to fit his needs, and rammed through an unpopular constitutional referendum to create a “super-presidential” system without meaningful checks and balances.’

The study also noted that President Erdogan’s response to the July 2016 coup attempt has become a sprawling witch hunt, resulting in the arrest of some 60,000 people, the closure of over 160 media outlets, and the imprisonment of over 150 journalists. The leaders of the third-largest party in the parliament are in prison, and nearly 100 mayors across the country have been replaced through emergency measures or political pressure from the president. The government has even pressed its crackdown beyond. Turkey’s borders, triggering a flood of Interpol “red notice” requests to detain critics abroad, among other effects.

How will the report affect the Asylum seekers?

Since the controversial coup attempt, thousands of military officials, government officials, academics, and civilians have been detained, arrested or fired from their positions. The purge has led to a large number of these individuals to flee Turkey and seek asylum elsewhere.

It is safe to analyze that The Freedom House report will have major consequences on several issues especially asylum applications of thousands of people since the report extensively provided all the necessary data about the failure of democracy in Turkey. The report which confirmed Turkey’s passage over the threshold from ‘Partly Free to Not Free’ is considered both essential and useful for the court processes of the Asylum applications.

How should NATO respond?

A core principle of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is that member states adhere to democratic values. Here is how NATO defines its core principle and the purpose of its very existence:

‘NATO’s purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. POLITICAL – NATO promotes democratic values and enables members to consult and cooperate on defense and security-related issues to solve problems, build trust and, in the long run, prevent conflict.’

As a democratic security organization, NATO should clarify its stance and policies towards Turkey, which is openly defined as a non-democracy and not-free? Can NATO promote democratic values while one of its biggest members is already defined a dictatorship by non-partisan international organizations?

The recent study by the Freedom House which reports the decline in Turkey’s human rights record may cause some U.S. lawmakers and decision makers to question the country’s NATO membership.

ECtHR appears as a new venue

The shocking lower court rulings of the last several days rejecting the authority of Turkey’s Constitutional Court to hear individual applications has also been considered as the end of the rule of law in Turkey. This new episode in Turkish judiciary will lead the Turkish citizens who seek legal recourse to violations of their rights at European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which still remains a proper venue that they should pursue. The recent study by The Freedom House can definitely be used as a source by the Turkish citizens to strengthen their cases at the ECtHR despite the fact that the ruling processes of the Court may take so long.


Download as a PDF File: AST_Turkey_is_no_longer_free_country_what_is_next

 

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Freedom of the Net 2017

FREEDOM OF THE NET 2017 REPORT PREPARED BY THE FREEDOM HOUSE

SUMMARY OF THE PARTS CONCERNING TURKEY

In November 2017, the Freedom House[1] published a report titled Freedom of the Net 2017[2] which assesses the internet freedom around the world making country-based evaluations.

According to the Report, Turkey falls into the category of “Not Free” in 2017. Together with Egypt and Ukraine, Turkey is in the top three countries who declined most compared to the last year. Turkey and Russia are both ranked as 15th among 65 countries falling behind countries such as Myanmar, Sudan and Venezuela.[3] The Report refers to different applications in Turkey many times showing that the State has been taking considerably restrictive measures.

Especially in 2017 thousands of people were arrested and/or taken into custody for downloading a mobile communication app called ByLock reasoning that coup plotters allegedly used the same app as well. The Report highlights that the app was easily accessible as well as publicly available in different app stores.

According to the Freedom House, the Turkish government has not only been using the internet to accuse government critics of serious crimes, but also to manipulate public discussions and control particular agendas. As per the allegations, around 6,000 people were employed to achieve these aims. To illustrate, many dissident journalists and academics have been dealing with online harassment by pro-government troll accounts through social media websites. Disinformation methods used by the State vary including paying government commentators (without explicit sponsorship), maintaining pro-government media and propaganda, hijacking politically dissent websites (such as social media accounts and news sites), and lastly creating fake news around elections intentionally to affect voters.

Besides these direct methods, the Turkish government uses indirect restrictions as well to control the use of the internet. To exemplify, WhatsApp as the most common mobile communication app was throttled many times especially right after significant political events and became almost inaccessible. Moreover, Turkey has taken measures to limit and control VPNs channels which enable internet users to reach banned websites and content. For example, Tor which is one of the most secure VPNs has been targeted by repressive governments. The Report emphasizes that Turkey has also applied new blocking orders to limit the use of Tor network making it harder for users to reach.

The Report specifies topics and content censored by the Turkish government; some of which can be listed as criticisms of authorities, corruption, conflict, political opposition, satire as well as mobilization for public causes. Out of 9 types of key internet controls categorized by the Freedom House, Turkey has been applying 7 of them including blocking of online communication tools, network shutdowns, increasing censorship through new laws, arrest and imprisonment of opposing internet users.

To sum up, the Freedom of the Net 2017 report illustrates how Turkey has been using the internet to serve the government’s own interests and also to limit individual freedoms such as freedom of expression and right to privacy.

1- Freedom House is a US based non-governmental organization “dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world.”; “About Us.” Freedom House, freedomhouse.org/about-us.

2-Freedom House, Freedom of the Net 2017, Nov 2017, available at: https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FOTN_2017_Final.pdf

3- It must be noted that these 65 countries represent 87% of the world’s internet users.

 


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Deterioration of the Internet Freedom

 

Freedom of the Net 2017 Report Prepared by the Freedom House: Summary of the Parts Concerning Turkey

In November 2017, the Freedom House published a report titled Freedom of the Net 2017 which assesses the internet freedom around the world making country-based evaluations.

According to the Report, Turkey falls into the category of “Not Free” in 2017. Together with Egypt and Ukraine, Turkey is in the top three countries who declined most compared to the last year. Turkey and Russia are both ranked as 15th among 65 countries falling behind countries such as Myanmar, Sudan and Venezuela. The Report refers to different applications in Turkey many times showing that the State has been taking considerably restrictive measures.

Especially in 2017 thousands of people were arrested and/or taken into custody for downloading a mobile communication app called ByLock reasoning that coup plotters allegedly used the same app as well. The Report highlights that the app was easily accessible as well as publicly available in different app stores.

According to the Freedom House, the Turkish government has not only been using the internet to accuse government critics of serious crimes, but also to manipulate public discussions and control particular agendas. As per the allegations, around 6,000 people were employed to achieve these aims. To illustrate, many dissident journalists and academics have been dealing with online harassment by pro-government troll accounts through social media websites. Disinformation methods used by the State vary including paying government commentators (without explicit sponsorship), maintaining pro-government media and propaganda, hijacking politically dissent websites (such as social media accounts and news sites), and lastly creating fake news around elections intentionally to affect voters.

Besides these direct methods, the Turkish government uses indirect restrictions as well to control the use of the internet. To exemplify, WhatsApp as the most common mobile communication app was throttled many times especially right after significant political events and became almost inaccessible. Moreover, Turkey has taken measures to limit and control VPNs channels which enable internet users to reach banned websites and content. For example, Tor which is one of the most secure VPNs has been targeted by repressive governments. The Report emphasizes that Turkey has also applied new blocking orders to limit the use of Tor network making it harder for users to reach.

The Report specifies topics and content censored by the Turkish government; some of which can be listed as criticisms of authorities, corruption, conflict, political opposition, satire as well as mobilization for public causes. Out of 9 types of key internet controls categorized by the Freedom House, Turkey has been applying 7 of them including blocking of online communication tools, network shutdowns, increasing censorship through new laws, arrest and imprisonment of opposing internet users.

To sum up, the Freedom of the Net 2017 report illustrates how Turkey has been using the internet to serve the government’s own interests and also to limit individual freedoms such as freedom of expression and right to privacy.

Download pdf version:Freedom of the Net 2017

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