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Turkey drifting further away from democracy: Freedom House

29 January 2015

Turkey continues is down-slide as regards democracy according to Freedom House report.

The annual report released on Wednesday by American based Freedom House says that Turkish President Erdogan’s influence is behind the dismissal of corruption allegations against his friends and associates and that he has also tampered with the freedom of the judiciary and the press.

The independent watchdog’s reports states that:

“He openly demanded that media owners censor coverage or fire critical journalists, told the Constitutional Court he does not respect its rulings, threatened reporters (and rebuked women journalists) and ordered radical, even bizarre changes to the school curriculum. Having risen from the premiership to the presidency in August, he formed a ‘shadow cabinet’ that allows him to run the country from the presidential palace, circumventing constitutional rules and the ministries of his own party’s government.”

Turkey was listed as a “partly free” country in terms of freedoms in the world and was rated 3.5 – one being the worst and seven being the best. With regards to civil liberties Turkey was rated 4 and for political rights 3. Turkey received a downward trend arrow in the report as well, “due to more pronounced political interference in anticorruption mechanisms and judicial processes, and greater tensions between majority Sunni Muslims and minority Alevis.”

Last year’s report said that Turkey was not a free country in terms of press freedom as Erdogan stepped up his campaign to stifle the press and control civil society, showing complete disregard for international democratic standards.

Freedom House stated that the media and judiciary both faced “greater interference by the executive and legislative branches, including a series of raids and arrests targeting media outlets affiliated with Erdoğan’s political enemies.”

The report also commented that over 45,000 police officers and 2,500 judges and prosecutors were reassigned to new jobs as part of a move the government said was necessary to punish and weaken “rogue officials.”  This action was viewed by critics as a move designed to stop anti-corruption investigations and undermine judicial independence. “Erdoğan and AKP officials spoke out against other so-called traitors, including critical journalists and business leaders as well as members of the Alevi religious minority. Media outlets bearing unfavourable coverage of the government have been closed or placed under investigation,” the report said.

Regarding corruption the report went on to stat that “Corruption remains a major problem in Turkey,” said the report, citing Cabinet ministers who resigned after the corruption scandal in December 2013, which involved money laundering and government contracts.

The report also mentioned an audio recording that was posted on YouTube in February 2014 in which Erdoğan and his son appear to discuss hiding millions of dollars in cash. Erdoğan said the recording was a “montage” and that he had been subject to illegal wiretapping by elements of a “parallel state,” but opposition parties said the recording was genuine.

Source Zaman

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