The Initiative for Freedom of Expression, started with a chain of civil disobedience on January 23, 1995 with the prosecution of Yaşar Kemal at the State Security Court (DGM), celebrates its 24th anniversary. Tens of thousands of disobedient civilians took part in the crimes (?!) of hundreds of thought criminals during this quarter-century journey. The Freedom for Thought report was also published annually since 2000.
The 2018 report reveals that we have left behind another year "dark as the night" in terms of rights and freedoms. The year 2018 started under the State of Emergency and ended with a "permanent State of Emergency" with all applications of the State of Emergency ongoing – except its name. The tendency of authoritarianism continue full-speed in Turkey with all authority gathered in one position with the transition from the Parliamentary system to the Presidential system. Extensive steps were taken during this time in Turkey, weakening human rights and the supremacy of law. Erdoğan started building the new system with decrees issued on his own. This system was recorded in history as the "Turkish-type" Presidency, as described by Erdoğan himself. A method to understand the meaning of this notion is to think about what it "isn't." In this respect, the report compares the new system with examples from other Presidential systems in the world, that are "not Turkish-type."
We arrived in 2019 and now it is almost impossible to explain why an individual is detained, arrested or remains arrested with legal sources and texts. Empty investigation files come together with long periods of arrest; leading to an unlawful mechanism of penalty that is called "arrest." If those arrested are citizens of another country, the international agenda is rather on a "hostage diplomacy." This is especially the case for arrested foreign journalists. The country has now become a place where everyone is a "potential suspect"; with neither Constitutional Court nor the European Court of Human Rights decrees are applied. It is the peak of unlawfulness.
The Kurdish Question turned once again into a spiral of warfare; increasing clashes in the area exceeded the borders. "Peace" continued to be the crime(!) and peace advocated continued to be prosecuted. Members of People's Democratic Party (HDP), the third greatest party in the Parliament, are behind the bars for more than two years…
The slightest criticism is considered a "crime" (!); protests are banned, the Internet is restricted in Turkey. It is now the biggest prison in the world. During the year 2018, 20 people were detained and 8 of them were arrested per day on average only within social media operations.
Controversial notions in Criminal Codes like "insult", "incitement", "hostility", "provocation" and "respect" continued to restrict freedom of expression in order to "protect the dignity of state." (!)
More than 140 press members entered 2019 in Turkish prisons. According to Freedom House, Turkey is now categorized among the "not-free" countries. According to the data by RSF, Turkey is the country imprisoning the highest number of journalists for the last three years.
All voices of the opposition were accused by Erdoğan to be "terrorists", "coup-organizers" and "spies" and were thereby targeted. The President orders the "independent" judiciary on what to do now, performing the judiciary himself and deciding for convictions.
The year 2018 has been a year with the right to meeting and demonstration set aside. Protest bans were issued within the State of Emergency in many provinces. Protest bans, especially bans against the protest conducted by the Saturday Mothers for years at Galatasaray Square, continued after the State of Emergency as well with orders from the Ministry and local administrations.
Impunity being an extremely common administrative and judicative practice in Turkey continued with new examples, while other rights violations caused by the state itself or by its non-activity have increased dramatically during the state of emergency.
You may find the information we summarized here in the Freedom for Thought 2018 report and video Almanac, revealing the one-year freedom of expression picture of the country. The 25-year experience of the Initiative for Freedom of Expression reveal that freedom of expression and thought is the key for all freedoms. The current state of affairs prove that when we lose that freedom, all other freedoms will be locked in prison. We wish that the year 2019 illuminates this dark picture and brings future days on which "we will no longer need such a report, nor an Initiative as ours"…