Turkish tales of rights abuses

Ahmet Davutoglu

Ahmet Davutoglu

For every advocate of good governance and true democracy, the events and development in Turkey would cause you a serious trouble as well as make you uncomfortable. Revelations and findings on happenings in that country indicated that Turkey is gradually becoming a recluse state, where rights of individuals are not regarded.

As a keen follower of activities in Turkey, I realise that the citizens have found themselves under a government that has penchant for abuse of fundamental human rights. It has become a recurring occurrence. The Justice Development Party-led government has proven beyond doubt its likeness for suppressing opposing views.

For instances, a recent report by the United States of America on rights abuses perpetrated in Turkey under the Justice Development Party (AKP) revealed that the media, the judiciary and other business interests own by perceived enemies of the government were targeted.

The last November election that took place in Turkey saw the height of human rights abuses. It was an event that saw the biggest clampdown on the press through forceful takeover of privately owned-media by government forces. It left a sour taste in the mouth for those who choose to be in the opposition parties.  It is on record that opposition parties were denied level playing grounds as their campaigns were grounded by government forces. It was not a different case for the judiciary; judges were coerced to do government biddings. Justice became expensive as access was denied the already harassed citizens because of government insistence on compromising the course of justice in Turkey.

Turks continued to lament under the draconian rule of the AKP. It was a challenging security environment as captured by the U.S. reports on the rights abuses in Turkey. The election that produced the present Government of  Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was to say the least a terror of sorts visited on the opposition. For example, reports have it that during the build-up to the election, attacks on opposition party officials and campaign staffers in some cases “hindered contestants’ ability to campaign freely.” A number of Turks expressed concern that media restrictions during the campaign period “reduced voters’ access to a plurality of views and information during the election process on November 1, which led to the formation of a government on November 24 by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, even though it was considered a generally free election.

Another disturbing experience was that prior to the November election in Turkey, the authorities had arrested an estimated 30 journalists, most charged under anti-terror laws or for alleged association with an illegal organisation. It was bad that the Turkish government also exerted pressure on the media through security raids on media companies; confiscation of publications with allegedly objectionable material; criminal investigation of journalists and editors for alleged terrorism links or for insulting the president and other senior government officials; reprisals against the business interests of owners of some media conglomerates; fines and Internet blocking.

I read with displeasure the reports that revealed that pressure on Kurdish-language and opposition media outlets in the Southeast reduced the vulnerable population’s access to information about the conflict with the PKK. A number of media outlets affiliated with the Fethullah Gulen movement were dropped from digital media platforms (cable providers) and five outlets were taken under the control of government-appointed trustees. Representatives of Gulenist and some liberal media outlets were denied access to official events and in some cases, denied press accreditation.

It was obvious that the AKP-led government is fighting a perceived enemy when their action caused “Most Gulen-affiliated television channels to lose a significant portion of their audience after pay-television platforms dropped them, beginning with Tivibu on September 27. By October 15, four (out of six) digital pay-television platforms had dropped the channels. The government’s media regulatory institution, RTUK, warned the operators that the removal violated broadcasting requirements for platform operators to be fair and impartial and was inconsistent with standard legal procedure.

Despite the RTUK warning, a fifth pay-television platform, Turksat, dropped Gulen-affiliated channels on November 16.”
Turkish government has the culture of manipulating the legal system to get at opponents. It was emphasised in a report that Turkish authorities used the anti-terror laws during the year to detain individuals and seize assets, including media companies, of individuals alleged to be associated with the Gulen movement, designated by the government during the year as the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation, the report revealed.
• Suleiman wrote in from Abuja

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