Turkey has lost its status as a 'Partly Free' country in the latest Freedom of the World rankings issued by the Freedom House watchdog on January 16, which concluded that the country is “sliding into authoritarian rule”.
Now deemed one of the 49 countries around the world (25% of all nations) to be 'Not Free', Turkey, already bearing the unwelcome tag of the world's most prolific jailer of journalists, “slid over the threshold from Partly Free to Not Free as the culmination of a long and accelerating slide in [the annual] Freedom in the World [survey]”, the rankings report said.
“The country’s score has been in free fall since 2014 due to an escalating series of assaults on the press, social media users, protesters, political parties, the judiciary, and the electoral system, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fights to impose personalised control over the state and society in a deteriorating domestic and regional security environment,” it added.
“Erdogan has pushed out his rivals and former allies within the ruling party, reshaped media ownership to fit his needs, and rammed through an unpopular constitutional referendum to create a 'super-presidential' system without meaningful checks and balances.”
On its aggregate score scale of 0-100 (where 0 = least free), the ranking showed Turkey falling from 38 in 2017 to 32 in 2018. On its world score scale ranging from 1 to 7 (where 7 = least free) Turkey fell from 4.5 to 5.5 on the freedom rating; from 4 to 5 in terms of political rights and from 5 to 6 as regards civil liberties. The report from the US-based non-governmental organisation also determined that in the past decade Turkey's decline in freedom has been worse than that of any other country in the world.
Assessing how Turkey has fared since it entered its ongoing state of emergency 19 months ago, the report observed: “[Erdogan's] response to the July 2016 coup attempt has become a sprawling witch hunt, resulting in the arrest of some 60,000 people, the closure of over 160 media outlets, and the imprisonment of over 150 journalists. The leaders of the third-largest party in the parliament are in prison, and nearly 100 mayors across the country have been replaced through emergency measures or political pressure from the president. The government has even pressed its crackdown beyond Turkey’s borders, triggering a flood of Interpol 'red notice' requests to detain critics abroad, among other effects.”
The descent towards authoritarianism has left Turkish citizens in the country of 79.5mn hesitant to express their views on sensitive topics, the report said.
“In addition to its dire consequences for detained Turkish citizens, shuttered media outlets, and seized businesses, the chaotic purge has become intertwined with an offensive against the Kurdish minority, which in turn has fueled Turkey’s diplomatic and military interventions in neighbouring Syria and Iraq,” the Freedom of the World 2018 report also noted.
The analysis also concluded that policies of US President Donald Trump—who met Erdogan twice in the US last year but made no public comments criticising Turkey's approach to matters of freedom or its jailing of journalists—are fuelling a global attack on democracy as Washington abandons its world leadership role in securing liberty. "Democracy is under assault and in retreat around the globe, a crisis that has intensified as America's democratic standards erode at an accelerating pace," a summary of the report stated.