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OPC Calls On Turkish President To End Authoritarian Press Crackdown
March 9, 2016
We, the Overseas Press Club of America — an independent organization dedicated to advancing global reporting and press freedom — call on you to end the authoritarian crackdown your government has mounted against press freedom in Turkey. While it is not the habit of our organization to criticize the policies of foreign governments, we cannot stay silent in the face of the escalating and brazen abuses of journalists in Turkey and the dire ramifications of this media repression.
In recent days, Turkish authorities cut the signal of IMC TV, Turkey’s largest satellite provider, and took over the headquarters of the country’s widest circulating newspaper, Zaman, where they fired key staff critical of the government, and deployed tear gas and water cannons against journalists and protestors. Within two days of the government’s takeover of Zaman, once known for its criticism of the government’s policies, the paper published what the The New York Times described as “pro-Erdogan propaganda.” Moreover, these actions are not isolated. They are yet another push in the government’s widening effort to crack down on press freedom that over the last year also included the arbitrary detention and imprisonment of dozens of journalists without trial or transparency.
We are alarmed by the baseless accusations of terrorism Turkish authorities have leveled in order to justify these politically-motivated actions against journalists and media organizations that play a critical role in informing the Turkish public and the world. We will not look the other way as the Turkish government increasingly exploits false allegations of terrorism to stifle press freedom.
Mr. President, we are calling on you to take action against these abuses and honor your government’s commitment to freedom of the press.
On March 6, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu denied that the government played a role in the actions against Zaman newspaper and IMC TV, alleging that they were taken independently by the courts. But the prime minister’s claim rings hollow, given the failure to provide corroborating evidence to support Turkish prosecutors’ accusations, as well as the political interests these actions blatantly serve. Your government’s actions amount to a concerted effort to eliminate independent media, and are reminiscent of some of Turkey’s darkest periods of authoritarian rule — a fact recognized by a growing international chorus of voices that now includes the Overseas Press Club of America.
We kindly request your response.