|Turkey violates OSCE commitments on Freedom of Expression|
The annual OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, which is being held in Warsaw from 28 September to 9 October 2009, will today discuss the state of Freedom of Expression, Free Media and Information in OSCE countries.
While noting improvements in the regulatory framework ensuring freedom of expression for all citizens in Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, KHRP remains concerned that the reforms made thus far have had a limited effect. Rather, the prosecution and harassment of journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders remains commonplace as the public authorities target those expressing critical speech or writing and hinder activists from meeting freely and taking part in peaceful public demonstrations. Indeed, in Turkey, several recent fact-finding missions by the KHRP have found that the targeting of human rights defenders and limiting their ability to express themselves and associate with others freely is on the rise.
Turkey’s tactics were once again highlighted by last week’s sentencing of Lawyer Eren Keskin, theatre actor Murat Batgi and writer Edip Polat, to one year in prison following speeches they made using the terms ‘Kurds’ and ‘Kurdistan’ at a Culture and Arts Festival in Diyarbakir three years ago. They have been charged for inciting hatred and hostility among the public, and humiliation of the public, under article 216 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK).
In Armenia, as highlighted by the series of successful rulings handed down by the European Court in KHRP’s recent cases, and as conveyed to KHRP during training sessions held for lawyers and human rights defenders in Yerevan in July, restrictions to freedom of expression and media freedoms remain prevalent.
Similar concerns are present in Azerbaijan. In March members of KHRP’s partner organisations in the Baku-Ceyhan Campaign were detained and intimidated by police. Villagers also reported that they fear losing their jobs as a reprisal for speaking to KHRP’s partner organisations.
‘While KHRP recognises governmental efforts to promote regulation in safeguard of freedom of expression and information in Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, we are gravely concerned by the continued criminalisation of human rights defenders, such as Eren Keskin, Murat Batgi and Edip Polat’, commented KHRP Chief Executive, Kerim Yildiz. ‘KHRP urge the OSCE and its participants to encourage the implementation of democratic reforms, so that its citizens may exercise their right to free expression without obstruction or prosecution.’