US House resolution urges Turkey to uphold media freedom, rights

A non-binding resolution, H.RES. 279, backed by 30 members of the US House of Representatives is urging Turkey to immediately “lift restrictions on freedom of expression” and respect universal human rights, adding fuel to already tense relations between the US Congress and Turkey’s embattled President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan< reports. 

The proposed resolution, sponsored by Rep. Alan Grayson, was introduced in the House last week. Congressional sources said it would be debated in the Committee on Foreign Affairs on June 2. It is highly unlikely that the resolution will be approved by the House before a key parliamentary election in Turkey slated for June 7, but it will join a chorus of international rights groups and Western governments expressing deep concern over Turkey’s increasingly intolerant stance toward critics.

“The House of Representatives calls on the Government of Turkey to immediately lift restrictions on freedom of expression, including expression online or in social media,” the first recommendation of the resolution said, recalling that prominent human rights monitors and the US government have expressed concern about the erosion of freedom of expression under Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) he founded.

 

The resolution notes that “respect for universal human rights, especially freedom of expression, is essential to maintain a democratic, open society” and urges the Turkish government to fully respect universal human rights consistent with Ankara’s Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) commitments.

The resolution highlights that the Turkish government “has increasingly conducted widespread intimidation and manipulation of media, private companies and other civil society actors through a number of means, including active interference in their operations and regulatory action to compel government-friendly outcomes.”

It added that “criminal prosecution or intimidation based on overly broad terrorism laws and other measures taken by authorities in Turkey in recent years have been widely criticized as ideologically driven and unusually severe.” In February 90 members of the US House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to raise his voice more loudly to defend Turkey’s media freedom.

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