The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government agencies continued to pose a major obstacle to the exercise of artistic freedoms in Turkey in 2020, responsible for 90 percent of all violation cases documented in a recent Freemuse report, reported Turkish minutes.
Freemuse is an independent international non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting freedom of artistic expression and cultural diversity. Freemuse has United Nations Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (UN-ECOSOC) and Consultative Status with UNESCO.
The NGO recorded 978 violations of the right to artistic freedom of expression in 89 countries and online spaces in 2020, including 72 in Turkey, in The State of Artistic Freedom 2021 report, an annual research publication.
According to the report, Turkey’s AKP government was responsible for 90 percent of all documented violations in the country, showing that the government and state-funded bodies remain the biggest threat to artistic expression in Turkey in 2020 and that the authorities are determined to deal with it record different ways of voicing, silencing, political dissent.
According to the report, seven artists were jailed in Turkey in 2020, while 17 were prosecuted and 17 were jailed.
Freemuse also documented 289 acts of censorship in 52 countries and online, with Turkey (32), Russia (15), France (14), Egypt (13), Mexico (12), and Cuba (10) accounting for 41 percent of all registered illegitimate restrictions on Music in 2020.
43 artists have been silenced worldwide as a result of the “fight against terrorism” in 2020, the report says, adding that 75 percent of all cases are documented in Turkey, where five artists have been jailed, 11 imprisoned and nine prosecuted were tracked. three were issued with a travel ban and two were prosecuted on terrorism charges.
Of the 289 censorship cases affecting 469 artists, artworks, events and venues, 44 percent of which were carried out by government agencies, 16 took place in Turkey, according to the report.
“Since the 2016 coup attempt that led to the arrests and detentions of thousands of people, including longtime human rights defenders and government critics with no history of violence, freedom of artistic expression in Turkey has been continuously restricted,” Freemuse said in the report, adding He added that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government uses various strategies to “curb political dissent expressed through arts and culture activities”.
It explains that artists in Turkey are prosecuted under the Anti-Terrorism Law (No. 3713/TMK) of 1991 and Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (insulting the President of the Republic), both of which are opposed to legitimizing state repression ideas are used and individuals, Freemuse urged the authorities to desist from “this practice of suppressing critical speech”.
“Freemuse is also calling on the Turkish authorities to repeal the Penal Code – Article 299, which is used to silence criticism of President Erdoğan. This legislation has no place in a democracy where heads of state should be subject to scrutiny and challenge without fear of repercussions,” the NGO said.
Musicians in Turkey, which constitute one of the professions hardest hit by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, are also struggling with concert bans imposed by local administrations across the country under various pretexts, mainly after being banned by Turks in were targeted by social media.
More than a dozen events, including concerts and university music festivals, have been canceled by local authorities since mid-May in what many see as an attempt by the AKP government to interfere in people’s lifestyles and try to impose its Islamic values on the nation and have drawn criticism from musicians, actors, bar associations and human rights activists.
A midnight music ban, introduced as part of Corona measures and yet to be lifted despite easing of other COVID-19-related measures, is one of the reasons dissidents are accusing the ruling AKP of interfering with people’s way of life.