International Press Institute (IPI) called on Turkey to end an "escalating crackdown on independent media" and the "misuse of anti-terrorism laws to target and imprison journalists" reporting on public interest issues.
The IPI members attended the 65th IPI General Assembly during the IPI World Congress in Doha, the capital of Qatar on March 21. General Assembly resolutions said journalists have been too often "harassed, arrested, imprisoned".
The IPI adressed Turkey's "media crackdown" and "the abuse of criminal defamation laws to silence any criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his policies".
“IPI members called on authorities in Turkey to obey their oaths to uphold the country's Constitution and to respect decisions by Turkey's Constitutional Court upholding human rights, including the recent decision freeing the Cumhuriyet editors. They similarly called on authorities to immediately dismiss the criminal case against those editors and all other journalists targeted as a result of their work, and to free all journalists currently imprisoned for engaging in journalism” the institution said in a written statement following the congress.
Also, Kadri Gürsel, journalist and political columnist for the Al-Monitor and Diken news websites and chair of IPI's Turkey National Committee was elected as new member of the Executive Board.
The further statement of the IPI was as follows:
"Turkey's Constitution explicitly recognises the rights of press freedom and free expression. Turkey is also a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, which similarly recognises those rights. However, in practice, respect for both rights has steadily eroded over the past decade as Justice and Development Party (AKP) leaders have systematically used the power of the state to establish dominance over the media landscape and to silence their critics."
"That misuse of state power has been dramatically illustrated in recent months by two developments, which are by no means isolated: the imprisonment and impending trial of two Cumhuriyet editors on terrorism and espionage charges in retaliation for their reports on allegations that Turkey's intelligence agency was arming Islamist rebels in Syria, and the state's seizure of opposition media outlets, including the March 2016 takeover of the Zaman media group and the Cihan News Agency."
"IPI members finally urged Turkey and its people not to approve any proposed changes to the country's Constitution that would contravene Turkey's commitments to uphold press freedom and free expression, or that would in any way abridge citizens' right to receive the information they need to make informed decisions at the ballot box and ensure accountability by their leaders. IPI members further noted that they remain open to engage in dialogue with Turkey's government should it indicate a serious desire to make improvements in the free expression and press freedom situation in Turkey."