Monday, April 18, 2016

Academic Freedom, Freedom of Expression and Information Under Siege

Noam Chomsky joins the campaign #RaiseYourPenForFreedom in solidarity with the incarcerated academics and journalists who stand trial on April 22.

Problems with academic freedom are symptomatic of broader issues. In yet another report that demonstrates the gravity of the situation, a recent report on the human rights record of Turkey in 2015 prepared by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the Department of State attests to this phenomenon.  As the four academics currently detained in high security prisons and two journalists will be standing trial on April 22, it becomes more evident that the government officials seek to silence those who articulate, call attention to or report problems, rather than addressing the problem itself.

According to the 2015 Turkey report, because of government pressure, "some contacts reported that they could not easily attend academic programs and practiced self-censorship on sensitive topics. Human rights organizations and student groups continued to criticize constraints placed on universities by law and by the actions of the Higher Education Board that limited the autonomy of universities in staffing, teaching, and research policies and practice." For example, "on April 10, the Ministry of Interior released a circular announcing that academics needed prior approval before conducting research on Syrian refugees living in the country, including surveys or fieldwork." It appears that the government is aggressively trying to control the production and circulation of knowledge.

Journalists face a similar problem. Muzaffer Kaya, one of the incarcerated academics, stated recently that April 22 will be Turkey's test with democracy. Meanwhile, as we already reported, a campaign has been initiated to support academics and journalists facing trials: #RaiseYourPenForFreedom.