Dear Friends, as the representatives of the Atlantic Institute and the entirety of its branches in the Southeastern United States, we would like to share our deepest concerns over the Turkish government’s ongoing oppressive actions against independent media outlets, news agencies and journalists.
With the most recent development of the government seizing control of the largest and the most circulated newspaper in the nation, Zaman Daily, and the biggest private news agency, Cihan, we believe that this is a clear violation of the freedom of the press and the freedom of speech, two fundamental pillars of a healthy and functioning democracy.
During the past two years, several newspapers and TV stations have been seized and some have even been shut down and dozens of Kurdish and Turkish journalists have been jailed with no indictment in sight in the near future. Can Dundar, Editor in Chief of Cumhuriyet Daily, and Cevher Guven, Editor in Chief of Nokta Weekly News Magazine, have been jailed again with no indictment, but fortunately released after three months. Meanwhile Hidayet Karaca, Head of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, and Mehmet Baransu of Taraf Newspaper are still in jail. Many other journalists have lost their jobs due to exceedingly heavy pressure from the government. As one might expect, these journalists' and media outlets’ only common ground is that they have been critical of the Turkish government.
Particularly troubling incident is the takeover of Cihan News Agency which just occurred today. Cihan has been Turkey’s largest international news and the only private election reporting agency. The takeover Cihan leads the international community to have concerns about the reporting process of the upcoming elections as the Turkish President has recently began to voice his request for a referendum and an early election for his bid for a stronger and obviously more authoritarian presidential system. In Cihan’s absence the elections will be reported only by the government-controlled news agency.
Similar concerns over Turkey’s weakening democracy are shared by international media outlets, press advocacy groups and human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Freedom House, National Press Club, International Press Institute, The Committee to Protect Journalists and other prominent human rights organizations.
We strongly believe that the relations between the United States, the EU and a Turkey that has a functioning and stable democracy in the region is crucially indispensable for regional and international security and stability. As these attacks pose a serious threat to the country's ailing democracy, we express our solidarity with the people of Turkey who are courageously speaking out on the face of political injustice.
Peace and blessings,
President and CEO
BBC: Zaman newspaper: Defiant last edition as Turkey police raid
National Press Club: National Press Club Troubled by Turkish Government's Seizure of Leading Opposition News Group
Freedom House: Turkey: Stop the Crackdown on the Press
Amnesty International: Turkey: Zaman newspaper taken over as government steamrolls press freedom
International Press Institute: Reports say Turkey moving to seize another media group
Local media indicate trustee appointed to oversee opposition Zaman
The Committee to Protect Journalists: Istanbul court to appoint trustees for Zaman, Today's Zaman editorial board
March 8, 2016