Turkish defender of free press spoke at recent Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, two weeks before Government takeover of major opposition newspaper
Free speech activists will be available for interviews
GENEVA, March 8, 2016 – In the wake of last Friday’s Government takeover of Turkey’s major opposition newspaper, Zaman, following a controversial court order a few hours earlier, international headlines have focused on Turkish Government’s crackdown on free press. While this is by no means a new phenomenon, last week’s events, which saw an opposition newspaper fiercely critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan transformed into a pro-government outlet in a matter of days, mark a watershed moment in the country’s journalistic history.
The Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, organized by a coalition of 25 NGOs, has hosted prominent Turkish free speech advocates at each of the last two events. Orhan Kemal Cengiz spoke in February at the 8th Geneva Summit and Yavuz Baydar addressed the 7th Geneva Summit in February 2015.
Orhan Kemal Cengiz at the Geneva Summit 2016 – “They started to sue journalists who said that Erdogan is a dictator, or Erdogan is an autocrat […] Now they press charges if you say Erdogan is manipulating the state or Erdogan is not democratic – even these kinds of statements are enough to get you sued.” [FULL SPEECH HERE]
Yavuz Baydar at the Geneva Summit 2015 – “In Turkey, the 4th estate as universally defined lost much of its function, due to immense and increasing, ever-growing political pressure.” [FULL SPEECH HERE]
For interviews, please contact the
Geneva Summit secretariat
Orhan Kemal Cengiz is a Turkish human rights lawyer and columnist. He has 20 years of experience founding new and innovative civil society organizations that address critical needs in human rights in Turkey (the International Committee of the Izmir Bar Association, 1995; the Izmir Bar Association Center for Human Rights, 1996; the Izmir Bar Association Committee for the Prevention of Torture, 2002; Human Rights Agenda Association, 2003; Civil Society Development Center, 2004).
He has 15 years of experience working in human rights organizations on an international scale, including legal consulting work for the London-based Kurdish Human Rights Project (1997-2000), and lecturing to lawyers abroad on taking cases to the European Court of Human Rights, and organizing exchanges between Turkish NGOs and NGOs in other Council of Europe member states.
His projects have a high success
rate—the Izmir Bar Association Committee for the Prevention of Torture
prosecuted over 1000 cases of torture and involved over 200 volunteer lawyers
at its peak, before it was shut down by the Bar’s new Board of Directors in
2005. He has also worked as an external evaluator of EU Commission-funded
project proposals, and through his work as Legal Director at the Civil Society
Development Center, which provides legal consultancy services to NGOs, has
become an expert in the needs faced by a wide variety of Non-State Actors.
Yavuz Baydar is the co-founder of P24, the Platform for Independent Media, and is a columnist and blogger. Based in Istanbul, he writes columns for two dailies, TZ and Bugun, with specific focus on domestic and foreign policy issues. His opinion articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung, El País, Al Monitor and the Al-Jazeera website.
In the profession for over 35 years, Baydar has been involved for two decades in the field of press ethics as news ombudsman. He served as president of the Organization of News Ombudsmen (ONO) 2003–2004. Baydar received The Special Award of the European Press Prize in 2014 for his fight against censorship and defence of professional values in Turkey. He is currently a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School.