Turkey's rising censorship: How did we get here?
29 Jul 2016
People gather in solidarity outside Zaman newspaper in Istanbul in March 2016

People gather in solidarity with the press outside Zaman newspaper in Istanbul in March 2016

By Ianka Bhatia and Sean Vannata

The spotlight has been on Turkey following the attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the government’s ensuing crackdown on journalists, teachers, judges and soldiers. How did it come to this? Here are five key articles on Turkey from Index on Censorship showing the escalation of threats to freedom of expression prior to July’s failed coup.

1. Silence on campus 

Early in 2015, an academic at Ankara University’s political sciences department spent an evening writing questions for an exam. He never for one minute suspected that one of those questions might lead to death threats. Index’s Turkey editor Kaya Genç reported on the struggle for academic freedom in Turkey’s election year for the summer 2015 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

2. “Judicial coup” sends clear warning to Turkey’s remaining independent journalists 

“Nothing could illustrate the course of developments in Turkey better than the case of prosecutor Murat Aydın,” Yavuz Baydar wrote for Index on 8 June 2016. “In what was described as a ‘judicial coup’ in critical media, Aydin was one of 3,746 judges and prosecutors, who were reassigned in recent days, an unprecedented move that has shaken the basis of the justice system. Some were demoted by being sent into internal “exile”, some were promoted.”

3. Turkey war on journalists rages on

The ongoing deterioration in Turkey’s press freedom has been well documented by Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom project since its launch in 2014. Back in March 2015, Index’s assistant online editor Ryan McChrystal looked at how, with journalists being killed, detained and prevented from working, the crackdown on Turkey’s media only appears to be getting worse.

4. Interviews with Turkey’s  struggling investigative reporters 

Kaya Genç interviews writers from the acclaimed independent newspaper Radikal about its closure and the shape of Turkish investigative journalism today for the summer 2016 issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

5. Turkey’s film festivals face a narrowing space for expression

The Siyah Bant initiative, which carries out research on censorship of the arts in Turkey, has given much coverage to obstacles to freedom of expression in the cinematic field in research published in recent years. In June 2016, Index published a report on cases of censorship at Turkish film festivals.

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