US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton [official website] on Saturday criticized Turkey's neglect of some human rights issues [CNN Turk report, in Turkish], including a lack of religious freedom, the censoring of the internet and improper detention of journalists. Clinton noted the rising economic importance of Turkey as well calling it one of the most exciting places in the world [CNN report] due to its ties with both Eastern and Western cultures, but expressed great concern over the recent jailing of approximately 50 journalists during the "Sledgehammer" coup [JURIST news archive] last year. Citing continued discrimination of Kurds, Clinton asked that Turkey expand religious freedoms. Further, she denounced a proposal set to go into effect in August that would allow Turkish authorities to monitor citizen's usage of the Internet. All of the comments were made during an interview with CNN Turkey during Clinton's recent diplomatic visit to Turkey, Greece and India.
Clinton said she believed these backslides in human rights is "inconsistent" with Turkey's growing emergence in the international community. She also praised Turkey's improving record on LGBT rights, in their effort to gain accession to the European Union (EU) [EU country profile], and congratulated them on their recent successful election.
Last month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official website, in Turkish] pledged to work with opposition leaders to build the country's new constitution [JURIST report]. Some groups have chastised Erdogan for failing to carry out his promises to ease tension between the Kurdish minority and the government, reform the judiciary and reduce unemployment. He has, however, been praised for his governance of the Turkish economy, which has experienced growth in recent years. Constitutional reforms are an issue for Turkey's accession to the European Union (EU) [official website] since its constitution was written under military rule and limits freedom of expression and religion. A council for the EU in May 2009 said that Turkey should do more [press release, PDF; JURIST report] in terms of judicial reform, protection of citizens' rights and various other efforts in order to further their request to be granted accession to the EU [criteria materials]. In 2009 and 2010 [JURIST reports], the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled against Turkey in journalism-related rights violations.