UN rights expert calls on Turkey to reverse seizure of independent media group

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

8 March 2016 – An independent United Nations human rights expert today called on the Government of Turkey to relinquish State control over Feza Media Group, which includes the Zaman newspaper.

The Government seized the Media Group on Friday following court action linked to national security, a move the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, called an “extraordinary threat to free media and pluralism.”

In a statement today, Mr. Kaye reminded the Turkish Government and courts that they are bound by international law and standards.

“Court decisions should be in strict conformity with the rights to freedom of expression and should not impose restrictions that unduly restrict the freedom of press and media,” he said.

Mr. Kaye added that he finds it difficult to see how this seizure “meets the international standard that a restriction must be provided by law and necessary to protect a legitimate government interest.”

He called on the Turkish Government and judiciary to ensure “an immediate, fair and impartial appeal procedure” and to reverse the decision.

The UN expert said his upcoming visit to Turkey, scheduled for November 2016, will be an opportunity to address such issues as the independence of the media, the safety of journalists, activists and academics, as well as the measures taken to ensure public debate in the country.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein expressed concern about actions of security forces in Turkey and an “alarming number” of journalists and other media operatives convicted or awaiting trials. He reiterated that anti-terrorism legislation should not be used as a means to curtail freedom of opinion or expression.

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