International Christian Concern | April 21, 2020
According to the recently released 2020 World Press Freedom Index, Turkey ranks 154 out of 180 countries with free expression. Turkey has jumped three spots down the list since last year. This places Turkey extremely close to the “very serious” press freedom violations category, which only has 12% of the total countries measured and includes those such as North Korea, China, Eritrea, Cuba, and Iran.
This situation is part of a broader environment in Turkey which discourages free speech from all aspects of society, particularly if it includes any element which is contradictory to the Islamic nationalist platform established by the government. This impacts more than journalists. Christians increasingly find it difficult to speak about the challenges they face, and worry about expressing information regarding religious freedom violations. For example, the government regularly asks the traditional churches to publicly sign documents supporting government policies even if these policies are detrimental to their faith practice. It is understood that failure to comply and publicly speaking against these policies would lead to harsher consequences.
Christian journalists are especially at risk. The memory of Hrant Dink, an Armenian journalist assassinated several years ago, runs deep within the Christian community. He was publicly outspoken about religious persecution (genocide) which had occurred years prior, an issue which the government repeatedly attempted to squash. Last week, an Assyrian Christian journalist reported gunshots fired at his home. For those Christian journalists in Turkey who want to speak out about rights violations, they do so at a personal risk that is doubly profound.