Turkey / freedom of expression: UN expert raises alarm at government’s seizure of independent media group

8 March 2016
GENEVA (Issued as received) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, expressed his deep alarm over the Turkish Government’s seizure of the Feza Media Group, including the Zaman newspaper, earlier this week. He called on the country’s Government and the judiciary to ensure an immediate, fair and impartial appeal procedure and to reverse this move.

“The decision to put one of the most significant sources of independent journalism in Turkey under State control represents an extraordinary threat to free media and pluralism,” the human rights expert stressed.

“This not only impacts Feza Media Group, but exerts a great deterrent effect on other media and journalists conducting essential reporting of public interest or expressing opinions that are critical to the government,” he warned.

Mr. Kaye reminded the Turkish Government and Courts that they are bound by international law and standards. “Court decisions should be in strict conformity with the rights to freedom of expression and should not impose restrictions that unduly restrict the freedom of press and media,” he noted.

“I find it difficult to see how this seizure meets the international standard that a restriction must be provided by law and necessary to protect a legitimate government interest, such as national security or public order,” the expert said.

“While this week’s moves are deeply troubling, I also note that the Government of Turkey has recently agreed to an official visit to the country that I am due to conduct in November 2016,” the Special Rapporteur recalled. “Though it remains many months away, I look forward to a dialogue with Turkish officials in advance of the visit, addressing these and other concerns related to freedom of expression.”

Country visits are a fact-finding tool for all Special Rapporteurs reporting to the Human Rights Council. On-site visits are an essential component of the independent expert’s mandate in order to assess in greater detail the state of protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and, where appropriate, to make recommendations for its improvement. During country visits, the Special Rapporteur meets with key actors in government and civil society.

“The visit to Turkey will be an important opportunity for me to address such issues as the independence of the media, the safety of journalists, activists and academics, as well as the measures taken to ensure public debate in the country,” the expert concluded.

David Kaye (USA) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in August 2014 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Turkey: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/TRIndex.aspx

For use of the information media; not an official record