Harlem Désir, the Organization for Security and co-Operation in Europe(OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, has criticized the Turkish government over the detention of hundreds of social media users for criticism the ongoing Afrin operation in Syria.
“Detention for expressing one’s dissenting views on social media, including on military operations, is unacceptable. I request the authorities to reconsider such practice,” Désir said in a written statement late on Feb. 7.
According to the Interior Ministry, as many as 449 people so far have been detained and charged with terror propaganda for their social media posts on Turkey’s recent military operations in Afrin, he noted.
Désir had emphasized in a letter to Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Feb. 6 that “creating an environment restricting freedom of expression can only weaken democratic societies.”
“Disagreeing with actions taken by the government should not be punished with imprisonment. Freedom of expression must be respected, even in times of conflict or war,” he added.
“Security concerns should not lead to disproportionate restrictions on fundamental freedoms. I call on Turkey to reverse its current approach to critical expressions, release those detained arbitrarily, and drop the charges against them,” Desir stated.