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CoE election observers urge Turkey to do more to protect freedom of expression

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The Council of Europe’s election observation mission to Turkey on Monday released a statement calling on Turkish authorities to do more to ensure freedom of expression in the political and media environment and the oversight of electoral processes by an independent judiciary, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

Announced by David Eray, head of the delegation from Switzerland, the statement acknowledged the “calm and professional” way the election was held while reiterating the organization’s longstanding concerns related to civil liberties and the rule of law in the country.

“In line with the Council of Europe principles of democracy, rule of law and human rights, more needs to be done to ensure a political and media environment where there is genuine freedom of expression and a reasonable and well-implemented framework overseen by an independent judiciary,” the statement read.

The delegation also addressed the predominance of party politics as an obstacle to local democracy.

“While we welcome the competitive nature of these elections and that voters were able to choose between many alternative options, we can only note that the 2024 local elections in Türkiye took place in a starkly polarised environment, and were only partially conducive to local democracy.”

The statement criticized TRT, the state-run broadcaster, for its lack of impartiality in election coverage, which discriminated against opposition politicians.

“The public broadcast media did not meet its legal obligation to provide impartial coverage of the campaign and equal opportunities for all political parties. In particular, the delegation was informed of repeated bias of the public broadcaster in covering opposition parties.”

The observation mission called on Turkey to regulate campaign and party finance as well as the potential misuse of public resources.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his cabinet members were particularly criticized for their active involvement in İstanbul’s mayoral election, campaigning in support of the candidate fielded by their ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The statement also recalled the practice of ousting Kurdish opposition mayors in southeastern provinces and replacing them with pro-government trustees after the 2019 local elections.

“Today we urge the national authority to ensure that this will not happen again and that this practice of trustees will be abandoned altogether,” the delegation said.

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