Motion for a resolution - B8-1170/2016Motion for a resolution

    MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the situation of journalists in Turkey

    24.10.2016 - (2016/2935(RSP))

    to wind up the debate on the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
    pursuant to Rule 123(2) of the Rules of Procedure

    Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, Marietje Schaake, Pavel Telička, Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, María Teresa Giménez Barbat, Petras Auštrevičius, Beatriz Becerra Basterrechea, Dita Charanzová, Marielle de Sarnez, Gérard Deprez, José Inácio Faria, Marian Harkin, Ivan Jakovčić, Valentinas Mazuronis, Louis Michel, Javier Nart, Urmas Paet, Maite Pagazaurtundúa Ruiz, Carolina Punset, Jasenko Selimovic, Ivo Vajgl, Johannes Cornelis van Baalen, Paavo Väyrynen, Cecilia Wikström, Hannu Takkula on behalf of the ALDE Group

    See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-1162/2016

    Procedure : 2016/2935(RSP)
    Document stages in plenary
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    European Parliament resolution on the situation of journalists in Turkey


    The European Parliament,

    –  having regard to its previous resolutions on Turkey, in particular that of 14 April 2016 on the 2015 report on Turkey[1], those on its previous progress reports and that of 15 January 2015 on freedom of expression in Turkey[2],

    –  having regard to the failed military coup in Turkey of 15 July 2016, and to the measures taken by the Turkish Government following these events, including the arrests of journalists, media executives and others throughout Turkey and the closing of a number of newspapers, TV and radio stations and online media outlets,

    –  having regard to the fact that Turkey’s accession to the EU depends on full compliance with the Copenhagen criteria and on the EU’s integration capacity, in accordance with the conclusions of the European Council meeting of December 2006;

    –  having regard to the Commission’s commitment to placing enlargement on hold,

    –  having regard to the fact that respect for the rule of law, including in particular the separation of powers, democracy, freedom of expression, human rights, the rights of minorities and religious freedom are at the core of the negotiation process,

    –  having regard to the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Turkey is a state party,

    –  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

    A.  whereas, following the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016, the Turkish authorities have taken a number of additional measures curtailing freedom of expression – which is a universal right and should not be associated with the failed coup attempt – including the detention of journalists, editors, publishers and media workers and the closure of media organisations accused of being linked to the Fethullah Gülen movement, which the government considers to be responsible for the failed coup attempt; whereas people have been tried for tweets they sent, and digital freedoms have been limited;

    B.  whereas restrictions on press freedom, media pluralism and digital freedoms and the broader lack of respect for the rule of law and human rights have been addressed systematically by the European Parliament; whereas the post-coup-attempt campaign against media outlets and journalists has intensified as a result of the state of emergency and the associated emergency decrees that were imposed in the aftermath of the failed coup; whereas the state of emergency and the associated provisions have been extended for a further 90 days from 19 October 2016;

    C.  whereas the use of social and alternative internet media is being specifically targeted following the failed coup; whereas many Turkish people are now afraid to use their real names on these social media; whereas people are being encouraged to report critical comments about the government published online, which is fostering social distrust among citizens and restricting the basic freedoms of thought, conscience and speech;

    D.  whereas, according to many non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders and Human Rights Watch, the authorities closed some 150 media outlets and publishing companies during the first two and a half months of the state of emergency, leaving more than 2 300 journalists and media workers without jobs, and arrested at least 99 journalists and writers, sometimes without a charge, bringing the total number of media workers detained as a result of their exercise of the right to freedom of expression to at least 130, as of 19 October 2016; whereas these figures exclude other journalists who are currently in detention in police holding cells, or who have been detained and released without charge during the state of emergency;

    E.  whereas, according to Human Rights Watch, many of those legal actions were taken in the absence of any evidence of participation by those accused in the failed coup attempt; whereas the right to a fair trial must be ensured, as well as the impartiality and independence of the judiciary; whereas a large number of NGOs, including Amnesty International, have reported that they have gathered credible evidence of detainees in Turkey being subjected to beatings and torture;

    F.  whereas these legal actions and this treatment of detainees are of the greatest concern, even in a state of emergency, and whereas the attempted coup cannot be used to justify the systematic manner in which journalists working to inform people are prevented from doing their job and risk legal action and detention;

    G.  whereas the ongoing crackdown on critics and journalists has led to self-censorship and the pre-emptive firing of journalists; whereas this chilling effect damages the right to freedom of expression, press freedom and access to information;

    H.  whereas even before the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016 Turkey was rated one of the worst countries for press and media freedom, in particular as regards the number of jailed journalists, number of banned books, rate of self-censorship and tax fines imposed on critical media; whereas the latest World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 151st out of 180 countries; whereas, according to the Turkish authorities’ own figures, Turkey is the country that holds the record for the highest number of journalists behind bars;

    I.  whereas the European Union has repeatedly called on Turkey to ensure that existing legislation complies with European standards and is implemented in a manner which ensures proportionality and equality before the law, in line with Article 10 of the ECHR and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights;

    J.  whereas Turkey must respect fundamental principles such as the rule of law and human rights, including, but not limited to, freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial; whereas these are non-negotiable;

    K.  whereas Turkey must also respect its obligations under the ICCPR, which it ratified in 2003; whereas the derogation provision under Article 4 thereof does not justify the disproportionate deterioration of press freedoms, in particular the freedom of journalists, editors and media workers;

    1.  Strongly condemns the attempted military take-over of 15 July 2016 and the attempts to illegally and unconstitutionally change and undermine the legitimate Turkish Government and the freely elected Grand National Assembly; underlines that all political parties in Turkey, as well as EU leaders, immediately condemned the attempted military take-over and expressed support for the democratic institutions and constitutional order in the country;

    2.  Stresses, however, that the failed military take-over cannot be used as an excuse for the Turkish Government and the AK Parti to unduly strengthen their grip on the country and stifle legitimate and peaceful opposition and to prevent journalists and the media in their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression through disproportionate and illegal actions and measures;

    3.  Reminds the Turkish authorities that invoking a state of emergency does not exempt them from complying with their human rights obligations, including protecting the right to freedom of expression;

    4.  Reminds the Turkish authorities that the utmost care must be observed when dealing with media and journalists, as freedom of expression and freedom of the media remain central to the functioning of a democratic and open society; reiterates that freedom of opinion, expression and speech, including independent media, whether online or offline, are core European values;

    5.  Deplores the mass arrests of journalists and the government’s campaign against media and journalists, and calls on the authorities to urgently produce credible evidence to back the accusations that the arrested individuals have committed the criminal offences they are charged with and to proceed swiftly with the judicial proceedings, in full transparency and with adequate legal safeguards ensuring due process and a fair trial; calls on the European External Action Service to intensify its attendance at trials of journalists and human rights defenders;

    6.   Calls on the Turkish authorities to drop those charges against journalists and media workers that do not have a basis in law and to stop bringing unfounded cases against writers and journalists engaging in legitimate political speech; calls on the Turkish authorities to swiftly release those detained on the basis of unsubstantiated charges;

    7.  Expresses alarm at the allegations of mistreatment and torture of some of those arrested; condemns the unfounded firing of media workers and the continued and growing violence, harassment and intimidation by both state and non-state actors against journalists; expresses concern at the number of journalists who are de facto unable to carry out their work because of the measures taken against journalists, and the intimidation and use of illegal wiretappings, which are leading to self-censorship;

    8.  Calls on the Turkish authorities to fully respect existing Turkish laws, the Turkish Constitution and European and international conventions and legal obligations, in particular the obligation to respect the right to freedom of expression under the ECHR and ICCPR, to which it is a state party;

    9.  Calls on the Commission, the Council and the Member States to extend all possible legal and judicial assistance to Turkey, in order to ensure that the highest standards are applied in the forthcoming trials of those accused of plotting the coup and to strengthen the rule of law in the country;

    10.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Government and Parliament of the Republic of Turkey.