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Turkish rights groups under ‘increasing’ pressure: report

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A member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community (LGBTQI+) holds a rainbow flag during a rally against Turkey's withdrawal from Istanbul Convention in Istanbul, on June 19, 2021. - Turkish President sparked outrage in March by pulling out from the world's first binding treaty to prevent and combat violence against women, known as the Istanbul Convention. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

Turkey’s government is putting independent groups under increasing restrictions, including smear tactics, administrative harassment and the threat of criminal prosecution, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a report on Thursday.

Groups are being threatened with administrative inspections, tax fines and even a possible trial for closure, said Murat Özçelebi of the Association of Civil Society Development Center (STGM).

Rights groups were particularly targeted, often through smear campaigns launched by pro-government media organizations, he added.

Özçelebi was introducing the report, published with the support of the European Union, at a news conference in Ankara.

The criminal proceedings were meant to intimidate all entire civil society in Turkey, said Özçelebi, who contributed to the report.

“Organizations deemed to be critical of the government go through more scrutiny, and this pushes many of them to self-censorship,” he added.

Associations defending LGBTQ rights and gender equality were particularly targeted for “verbal and physical attacks and harassment through the media,” the report noted.

Last year an İstanbul court rejected a prosecutor’s attempts to shut down We Will Stop Femicide Platform, a leading anti-femicide campaign group, on charges of violating administrative laws and “morality.”

But more than 1,500 associations and foundations have been closed since a 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The report is available in English and Turkish on the STGM website.

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