United Nations Special Rapporteur David Kaye critizes Turkey over freedom of expression in the country.
The UN rapporteur on freedom of expression on Friday raised alarm over the “grim” situation in Turkey, warning Ankara that the need to react after the failed coup was not a “blank cheque”.
“The conclusions I would say are fairly grim and reflect what I think is a deep sense of restriction on freedom of opinion and expression throughout the country,” David Kaye told reporters on a visit to Ankara.
He said it was clear that Turkey faced threats after the July coup bid — as well as from Islamist and Kurdish militants.
“But this does not mean that the government has, in a sense, a blank cheque to do anything it wants to restrict freedom of expression,” he said.
“We have seen across the board that restrictions interfere with different aspects of life in Turkey.”
Since a rogue military faction tried to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power, over 100,000 people within the judiciary, media, military and civil service have been arrested, suspended or sacked.
Among those arrested include staff from the secular daily Cumhuriyet and the co-leaders of the second biggest opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
Kaye is an independent legal expert tasked with reporting back to the UN Human Rights Council. He will present a formal report in spring.
Kaye warned over the long-term impact of the pressure on academics, hundreds of whom have been sacked or dismissed for alleged links to coup plotters or Kurdish rebels.
“If it (the purge) continues, people will leave — as long as they have access to their passport. They could go teach somewhere else, they could leave the country,” he told AFP after a news conference.
“The more academics leave, the less you have educators in the country for the next generation.”
Kaye met with five of the jailed Cumhuriyet staff, as well as acclaimed translator Necmiye Alpay who is also under arrest.
However he was denied access to internationally-renowned novelist Asli Erdogan as well as influential anti-Erdogan columnist at Cumhuriyet, Kadri Gursel.
The UN said in a statement that Kaye was also unable to meet arrested judge Aydin Sefa Akay, who was attached to the UN’s Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT).
The Turkish government has insisted that it is not attacking press freedom or jailing journalists because of their work.
Kaye presented a series of initial recommendations, including a call to release all detained journalists and the repeal of defamation legislation which makes it an offence to insult the president and other public officials.
Meanwhile a number of Turkish officers serving in NATO command posts have asked for asylum since a failed military coup in July, alliance head Jens Stoltenberg said Friday.
Stoltenberg also said he would travel to Istanbul on Sunday, having been there in September when he sought to reassure Ankara of NATO’s continued support.
“Some Turkish officers working in NATO command structures … have requested asylum in the countries where they are working,” Stoltenberg told a security conference in Brussels.
“We have seen a number of changeovers in the NATO command structure where Turkish personnel has been changed,” the NATO chief said.
Stoltenberg said the NATO countries concerned would make their own asylum decisions rather than the alliance headquarters in Brussels.
“We would be wrong if we started to go into that kind of legal issue; that’s for the judicial system” of the countries concerned, he said.
Stoltenberg did not name the countries or say how many Turkish officers were involved.
Jonathan Eyal, an analyst with the London-based think tank Royal United Services Institute, told AFP the development could create more tensions with Turkey.