Violations of Free Expression in Turkey

This report examines the state of free expression in Turkey. It focuses largely on the print and broadcast media, and to a lesser extent on freedom of speech in politics. The report deals with the period from 1995 to the present; when necessary, however, earlier periods are also explored.Given the plethora and ideological breadth of the media and of political parties in Turkey, this study cannot hope to deal with each and every newspaper, author, or political group. Rather, it uses representative cases to highlight violations of the internationally-protected right to free expression. The press in Turkey—in the vernacular of psychiatry—suffers from multiple personality disorder. When reporting on the vast majority of issues, such as domestic party politics or the economy, the media today is lively and unrestricted—indeed often sensational.Nearly all points of view are expressed, from radical Islamist to Kurdish-nationalist and dyed-in-the-wool Kemalist. The boundaries of criticism are nearly limitless when reporting on most issues. Such freedom, however, ends at the border of a number of sensitive topics.  Alongside the arena of free discussion there is a danger zone where many who criticize accepted state policy face possible state persecution. Risky areas include the role of Islam in politics and society, Turkey's ethnic Kurdish minority and the conflict in southeastern Turkey, the nature of the state, and the proper role of the military.

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