The arrest of nine journalists and writers on March 3, 2011, in the absence of clear reasonable cause, will have a chilling effect on free speech, Human Rights Watch said.
"In the absence of evidence that the police have credible reason to think Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener are responsible for wrongdoing, their arrests are a disturbing development," said Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch. "It raises concerns that what is now under investigation is critical reporting rather than coup plots."
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly raised concerns about restrictions on freedom of expression and press freedom, through laws introduced by the Justice and Development Party government in the previous parliament. There are also serious concerns about the high number of prosecutions, some of which result in convictions, for statements that neither advocate nor incite violence.
Some journalists in Turkey have been subject to prolonged pre-trial detention. The more common trend is repeated prosecution, which Human Rights Watch considers a form of harassment and which can have a chilling effect on the legitimate right to free speech.
"The government should take steps to remove all restrictions in law on freedom of expression and to demonstrate a commitment to press freedom and lively critical debate, which together are the hallmarks of a democracy," Sinclair-Webb said.